Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 84; 148, Nahum 2:13-3:7, Revelation 13:1-10, Luke 12:13-31
Worry-mongering is a profitable business strategy – more profitable even than fear. Where fear is a reaction to something real and bad, worry anticipates something that might be bad. If the bad thing goes away, or turns out not to be so bad after all, fear ends. Worry is sustainable, a cash cow that never runs short of milk, and always ready for exploitation by media and marketers. Plant a seed of worry about national security or the inevitability of aging, and reap a harvest in sales of body scanners or anti-wrinkle serums.
Jesus asked his disciples: “Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?” Ironically, not only does the stress of worry not add to our life, it decreases the quality, health, and length of that life. Jesus taught not to worry about food or clothing; if God provided for birds and the lilies of the field, how could he not do that and more for His children? Instead, he said, we should “strive for the kingdom” and everything else will fall into place.
We’d like to believe that, but modern life saps our confidence in those ideas.
Or not. Two thousand years ago Jesus was reminding people: “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” … and back then there was far less for the average person to possess. Could it be that life is not more stressful, but that we’ve always needed to hear the same message? We have access to more products than we could need in ten lifetimes, so as the forces of consumerism grow ever more sophisticated, they market less to our needs and more to a generalized sense of anxiety that demands to be fed but is never satisfied.
In many traditions, including the Christian one, enlightenment involves simplification and detachment. The biggest thing we have to give up, and what the world tries hardest to sell us, is the fear that God alone is not enough. It’s also the only thing, because once we’re rid of it the rest really does fall into place.
Comfort: You are not your stuff.
Challenge: Get rid of unnecessary stuff.
Prayer: Loving and merciful God, I will trust in you alone. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever been relieved to let go of something you held onto for a long time?
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