Once again this passage comes to me in timely fashion, even as many anxious thoughts and fears assailed me yesterday. But of even more value is how they are connected to the issues raised in last week's quiet time.
The word "Therefore" at the start of the passage tells me that Jesus intends these words to be a conclusion that follows the previous arguments. Last week I struggled with Jesus' views on treasures on earth, which he calls mammon, contrasting it with God. This week he says:
"Since you cannot serve God and mammon, let me tell you: Let mammon go. And you will discover that life goes on. And with less anxiety as well. And not only that, because you serve God He is able to enrich your life far beyond what mammon can give.
After all, look at the evidence. God takes care of his Creation and makes sure that they get what they need. So serving God does not mean that he will deny you what you need. God knows what you need. But if you seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, you will find far more than your daily needs."
Let mammon go. Let God be God, and let mammon take its proper place in your life. Jesus does not tell us to reject mammon, but to embrace God.
The answer seems so obvious, but in this thoroughly materialistic society, it is not often so. It is not merely our love for material wealth, benefits and achievements. That one many of us can keep under moderate control. It is the culture that we are immersed in, that isolates us from the "human" elements of life. Oh we read about it, we watch it on CNN, we sympathise and perhaps even breathe a prayer, or we are outraged and secretly mutter a curse. The "human" elements of life come to us in the movies we watch (or for some, avoid), the books we read and the music we listen to.
But we have become spectators in the drama of life. Drama, passion, humour, adventure, outrage, pathos, bewilderment, sorrow, pain, fulfillment, love, hate, kindness, dilemma - all that makes life more than food and body more than clothing - happens behind the glass that is my TV screen, allowing me to be involved, yet uninvolved, in story after story.
The information age has brought life to our doorsteps, our bedrooms and into our air-conditioned cars. Inject us with our choice of the day, and help us go on unprotestingly about our drab lives.
The alternative is to get involved. But it takes too much effort. I have too much to lose. I have no control as to how the story will end.
Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Yes, but...
Today, looking at these words "do not be anxious about your life" the things that I have been thinking about, "what I do want my life to be?" come flooding back. Looking deeper, I realize that these words speak to basic worries like food, drink and clothing, while my concerns are about significance, development and involvement. So, I am not worried about my life in that sense, but I am frustrated by the limits of my situation, of the fact that I can only do so much and no more, go so far, and no further. What is it like to be able to go as far as you want, to do as much as you are able to do and to be where life sizzles, where ideas are fleshed out in reality, where conviction and commitment add value to talent and creativity. It is probably true that if I dig deep enough I will find the same superficiality, self-centredness and hypocrisy that seems to be everywhere. And it is probably true that the motivations will be much closer to wealth and success than true ideals. Yet I cannot help but feel that it is there where life is being explored. It is there where life is being challenged and stretched. Not here. Not in the church. Here we fossilize. Here we talk the talk, but we don't walk the walk. Here we don't take risks. Here we are so afraid of losing what we have that the soul of our faith is dead.
I cannot walk out, and betray my Lord. Yet I continue to gaze out the window.
As I read what I wrote above, about my desire to "go as far as I want", I am reminded of a stirring description of heaven that Pastor Hwa Chien once gave from the pulpit. At that time I was excited because I caught an alternative view of heaven - not as the end of life, not as becoming some being that is completely different from what I am, not as entering into a new existence where there are no more challenges - but a continuation of life, continuing to be who I am, and entering into a reality where the impediments to life are now removed and I am free to be, free to create, free to explore, free.
I know that what I see outside my window is not the heaven I desire, although from this side of the wall it certainly looks attractive. I yearn for heaven. And I am so thankful that Jesus has come so that I can know, and in due course, live, the true wonder of life that God has created.