Today is Lk. 12.22-34. It’s a very familiar text, at least in the Matthew version. Here we have the exact same thing, only different. The point here, before we get into it, is that we need to be God-absorbed rather than self-absorbed. The concerns of life will drive you crazy if you let them. Don’t get consumed by them; get consumed with God instead. That’s what Jesus is saying. Let’s break it down.
“Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear.” It sounds like he’s saying, “Don’t ever worry about anything.” Not so. There’s nothing wrong with fearing loss or injury. Nor is he advocating reckless neglect. So he’s not saying, “Blessed is the person who doesn’t care about anything.” Ridiculous. For instance, even if you’re careless about what you eat and drink, you’ll suffer for it. So there. Here’s what I say:
Worry is a fear that you will endure some kind of lack, and that lack could be severe enough to cause a loss. I’m not sure that the text is a general teaching that we will never have any kind of lack or ever have any kind of loss. Contextually, though, we should generously give to the needy, fast as a discipline, and know that our truly valuable things reside in heaven and in the soul. In that sense, give to the poor without worrying about your own food, fast without worrying about your own stomach, and be generous with material goods knowing that your real treasure is in heaven. God, who watches it all and knows it all, will reward you for your godly deeds, so don’t worry about being generous.
In the context of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is declaring the Kingdom of God, which is the fulfillment of Jubilee. And in the economy of Jubilee, all slaves are freed, the poor are fed, and all share what they have. No one will have any need. See Acts 2.42-47 for an illustration that this works in real life. It’s like the balance in nature that feeds the birds and nurtures the flowers. Some give (plants give seed), some take (birds eat the seed), and those give (birds pollinate the plants and fertilize the ground), and those receive (the plants breed and are nurtured). God takes care of them because the system is designed in such a way that it works for the nurture of all.
Does that mean sparrows never fall to the ground (Mt. 10.29)? No. Does it mean flowers never fade away (Ps. 37.2; Ps. 102.11)? No. But God is caring for them all the same.
So don’t fear the fall; don’t fear the lack and the loss. God will take care of you through the church community. It’s the Jubilee!
Therefore the text is not talking about all kinds of worry: that my son will die, that my daughter will get into trouble, that I may never be able to marry the love of my life. The context takes us in a different direction.
In 2005 Steven Jobs gave the commencement address at Stanford University. Among other things, he told three brief stories—the first about how he had been adopted as an infant; the second about being fired from Apple; the third about being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Three serious reversals that illustrated rejection, exclusion, and near extinction. But he gave significance to each one, saying how it sent him into the wilderness, strengthened him, made him the lateral thinker and innovator we know him to be.
Every light also creates shadows, but shadows also tell us there is light to be found.
Jobs also said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve every encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”