“Don’t worry, be happy” is most notable as Bobby McFerrin’s coming out song in 1988. What many may not know is that the inspiration for this song came from Meher Baba. The Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba (1894–1969) often used the expression “Don’t worry, be happy” when cabling his followers in the West. However, Meher Baba communicated variations of the sentiment; fuller versions of the quote – such as, “Do your best. Then, don’t worry; be happy in My love. I will help you“ — which incorporate responsibility (“do your best…”) alongside the detachment (“don’t worry…”), as well as the master/disciple spiritual relationship (“I will help you”). In the 1960s, the truncated version of this expression by Baba was printed up on inspiration cards and posters of the era.
The concept of not worrying is not original to Baba. When Jesus came on the scene in the 1st Century he addressed the people’s anxiety and plight in a similar manner. Here we are in John 6:
Jesus fed the people the day before. He crossed the lake, had a midnight stroll on the water to meet his boys, and arose to find the crowds lurking. They wanted some more of what Jesus was handing out. However, they played it smooth and asked, “When did you get here?” The reply Jesus gave cut through all the smack to the heart of the matter. He addressed their motivations.
The people showed up for breakfast! They were hungry. Although in first century Israel there was profound poverty and destitution, most of the poor were working poor. The great majority were peasants engaged in subsistence farming, which means that after payment of Roman taxes, there was barely enough for survival, and certainly no surplus for long-term planning, or even enough to meet emergencies. As biblical scholar John Dominic Crossan observes, “Peasants … were structured inferiors.”
What Jesus says next is very interesting in light of their plight.
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.” — John 6:26-27
Did you hear that? These people are poor and hungry, though they work hard. Jesus tells them to not worry about just things as food! This is a moment when we must understand what Jesus is saying and not get all caught up in the moment. Remember, Jesus uses physical/spiritual talk often. He is using it here also. Jesus is not oblivious to their need. He wants them to rise above and seek God who can provide for their needs. They wanted a quick fix and hoped this magician/possible Messiah could help.
Jesus is aware of your need. Jesus wants you to check your motives. Our life focus trends toward physical and perishable items. We work so hard for food, clothing, and shelter that we fail to give heed to the higher need for a spiritual relationship with God. Jesus is not suggesting that your plight is ridiculous. Jesus wants you to worry less about those things and more about Him.
I know it may seem difficult, but that is what He wants. Following Jesus is more than just quips and quotes, it is a lifestyle of choices to follow the Messiah. We are called to give focus and energy to that which we cannot touch or feel. We are called to work toward an eternal payout more than a temporal one. Let’s do this and show the world the power and majesty of God as He reveals Himself through us because we opened our lives up to the opportunity!