Everywhere, we are told to plan for the future. This is no idle counsel. Tomorrow relentlessly and suddenly becomes today.
Yet Jesus’ radical counsel removes the demands of the future from the licit objects of our fretting. Tomorrow? Fuggedaboudit.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing?
Such teaching exercises upon us an influence that oscillates between great release and immense frustration.
We want to live carefree. Yet we cannot. We know neither the language nor the rhythm of such trust.
Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Jesus bring us closer, here, to the engine of such existential ease. Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Here, at least, our need is legitimated. We are not fools to imagine that we require these things.
Foolishness is banished to the space occupied by worry about them. It is there that we are not to stand, there that our feet and hands find themselves unfit for an alien task, there that we stumble over obstacles we cannot see. But our heavenly Father knows, thus we can rest.
Jesus’ summons is not to mental relaxation for its own sake. We are not relieved of effort. Rather, we are directed to marshal our energies towards a particularly focused project.
What we are to abandon is not the irrefutable, economic sine qua non of life on earth. That would be gnostic self-deception. Rather, we are to trust our heavenly Father with all of that, if Jesus is to believed, while we bend our shoulder to this.
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Jesus does not here call his own to self-abandonment or an excessively other-worldly state of mind. In fact, with stunning realism, today is defined in terms of its freight of trouble.
Jesus calls us to focus on the one thing we can do something about. Remarkably, it is a project that, in bearing his Father’s own name, seems as though it might have been the one thing that lies beyond our reach: the kingdom of God and his righteousness.
Before us lies one of the Christian story’s great reversals. We are told that the one thing we might be reasonably expected to accomplish—providing for our future—lies outside our control and in better hands than ours. Jesus’ Father and ours has that one covered. Paradoxically, the matter toward which we are to give ourselves heart and soul is owned entirely by God, in fact named after him: his kingdom and his righteousness.
Things are—ever, always—not as they appear.
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