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Don't Sweat It

by Tim O'Hearn

What is important to you? What do you worry about, fret about, or obsess about? For some people that would be their jobs. On those rare occasions you find them away from work they are still thinking about work. You ask them how they are, they will launch into a blow-by-blow account of what is happening on the job. Never mind that wasnít the question. They define themselves by their jobs.

To some people their cars or property is important. I heard of one man who bowed to his car every Sunday before he spent hours washing and waxing it. There are people who work hard to keep their lawn the perfect height, the perfect green, the perfect weedlessness. I have been in houses where I doubted that the owners ever had children. The house was spotless, and you were afraid even to sit in the chairs.

There is nothing wrong with working at a job. It is a good thing to keep a clean car, lawn, or house. There is a difference, though, between routine cleanliness and hovering around someone with a dustpan lest he drop a single cookie crumb on the carpet. To some such things are supremely important. To others they seem small matters. (Yes, this is coming from a self-confessed slob.)

This difference between big and small extends into other areas of our lives, as well. Probably the biggest conflicts between parents and children are over things that one considers highly important and the other considers a small matter. At what age should a girl start wearing makeup? When do the kids start dating? Do I have to eat peas or broccoli? Can I get my tongue pierced or a tat [tattoo] on my ankle? Whatís wrong with smoking a little pot? So what if I was half and hour late for my curfew? Each of these questions may be huge for one, while the other is wondering what is the big deal.

That list of questions may serve as examples to show that there are some things that may actually be important. Parents should take a stand on the big issues, like drugs and dating. We do have to make some hard decisions based on our values. There are some issues that really are small. Will it kill a child never to eat broccoli? (I have done fine without it.) If health issues are not a problem, is a tattoo or a piercing worth alienating a child over? (It may be, but each person has to decide that based on their own values.) Somebody once suggested asking, ďwill this matter in a year?Ē If a year from now you wonít remember one meal left unfinished, one crumb on the carpet, or a scratch on the car you traded away six months ago, then it probably is pretty petty.

Jesus admonishes us to decide what is truly important and what is really a petty matter.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matt 6:31-33)

Many of us would consider our next meal a big issue. Jesus says that a year (or eternity) from now you wonít remember a skipped meal. If you have shoes on your feet now, why worry that you canít have that pair of Air Jordans?

Someone else said it differently. ďDonít sweat the petty things, and donít pet the sweaty things.Ē And beyond following God, itís all petty things.