Another lovely and oft quoted passage is the focus for today (Matthew 6:25-34). It makes almost romantic reading, the picture painted is of birds flying and lilies swaying in the breeze in wonderful, carefree lives. Into my mind comes the image of a lovely pastoral scene on a warm day — much needed as I look over our white landscape although that too can be quite beautiful.
I wrote about this text three years ago (and it feels like yesterday). I started by saying that I found it a profoundly disturbing passage. Although my thoughts on reading it this time were somewhat different, much of that feeling remains. I feel somewhat unsettled with it.
The central theme is of not worrying — I will not repeat my thoughts of three years ago but include the link below. On the surface that sounds great, it is a good modern theme, as the popular song urges, “Don’t worry, Be happy” (Bobby McFerrin, 1988).
In the passage the reader is urged not to worry about food, drink or clothing. The passage starts by asking those listening or reading, “Is not your life more than food and the body more than clothing?” This is a great query. My answer would be a resounding, yes. Of course, my life is more than food or clothing.
Still, it is worth pausing for a moment and thinking about life and what comprises life. Actually, I suspect for many people a significant portion of life is working to earn to provide material necessities. Hopefully, any job is more than just a means to earn but also a rich part of life and a fulfilling experience. Food for thought but not where I want to linger today.
The verse that caused me to stop, think and ultimately feel very unsettled about is at the end of the passage. “Strive first for the realm of God and God’s righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well (33).
This pulled me up short. My first instinct was to say this is simply not true (how very unchristian of me!). Yet, I can’t escape being disturbed by these words. It feels like a false promise at the worse and at the best could lead to false expectations
It is the basis for a prosperity gospel. That if a person is spiritually doing all the right things then material goods and perfect health will follow in abundance. I find that disturbing. I have known friends and acquaintances experience awful times — poverty, death of loved one, chronic ill health, accidents, etc. These are good, spiritual people and I refuse to believe that the lack is theirs. Actually, on more than one occasion I have heard someone say to a person suffering that if only they had more faith things would be different. How sad. Surely, support rather than condemnation would be better when someone is going through a hard time.
I’m sure I will continue to ponder the balance between spirituality, material necessities and worry for the next few days. Life is short and precious. I don’t want to waste life in unhealthy worry but nor do I want to sit with a false expectation that because I seek God it will be a life of ease and prosperity. Finding balance is important.
(Photograph was taken at Trap Pond State Park, Delaware)