Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 62; 145, 2 Kings 17:24-41, 1 Corinthians 7:25-31, Matthew 6:25-34
Has anyone ever stopped worrying because someone said, “Stop worrying?”
When Jesus told his disciples not to worry about having enough food (God takes care of the birds!) or clothing (God dresses the grass itself in lilies!), or about life in general (can you add an hour to your life that way?) he knew this. He had a bigger point to make.
No matter how well off we might be, we are still prone to worry. The impulse to get food on our table and have a roof to keep that table under, as well as the fear we could lose it all, drives our behavior in instinctual, inescapable ways. On some level we doubt that faith alone will provide for all our material needs; the history of humankind does more to confirm than to dispel that doubt.
But that’s not all Jesus was saying.
After the birds and the lilies, he says, “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” We can read this at least a couple ways. The first is the simpler: have faith and live righteously, and God will provide. The second is broader. In telling us to strive for the kingdom, it asks us to be the instruments of justice as described by citizenship in the kingdom. In the service of kingdom justice, we feed the hungry, tend to the sick, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger. By being the last and by tending to the troubles of today – not just our troubles, but the troubles of our neighbor – we expand the kingdom in a way that begins to soothe that primal, hungry fear.
The end of worry is a long term endeavor. We still work toward it. Yes we are assured we can let go of individual worry for this particular day, but that process is inseparable from how we participate in the life of our greater community. When we sacrifice our lives to a kingdom free from worry, we will be freed in turn. We will not stop worrying because we are told to, but because we are told how.
Comfort: There is relief from worry.
Challenge: When you worry, ask yourself what you should be doing instead.
Prayer: Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. (Psalm 73:25)
Discussion: What is the difference between worrying and preparing?
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