“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?"
“Don’t worry about your life,” this scripture states. Specifically, don’t worry about clothes; don’t worry about food; don’t worry about your body. That makes no sense. Forget about clothes? Forget about food? I wonder how the homeless, the hungry and the dispossessed feel about that. All the fancy talk about beautiful flowers and birds is great. But something tells me that it might not be wise to parade around with just the “clothing” that God gave me.
Food and clothing aside, what about our body? Maintaining good health requires having decent medical care. Medical costs are exorbitant. Can you imagine going through life without medical insurance and not be worried?
And how about that part about the flowers being so beautiful without having to “toil”? I happen to know a young man who believes very literally in this verse. He certainly believes in avoiding hard work. He has food and clothing only because others close to him are willing to provide for his needs. Certainly, the text is not promoting laziness!
I admit that this passage is a tough one for me. No, I have never been homeless and have never gone without food or clothes, but I do know what it is like to worry about having enough money for basic needs. I was born in the Depression. I was raised on a farm, and illnesses plagued my father to the extent that he was no longer able to be financially successful on the farm. Having enough money was an ongoing concern in our family.
This outlook followed me into adulthood. As a young schoolteacher it seemed that if I could only earn just $5.00 more a month, I would have “enough.” When our first child was born we learned within three days of his birth that he suffered from Cystic Fibrosis. Medical bills were substantial.
As the years have passed, our financial situation has improved. We saved money. We retired. Money-wise, our situation should now be secure. But wait! What if my wife or I required long-term nursing or assisted living care? Would we have enough? For me that is plenty to worry about. So how can it be wrong to be concerned about our financial future?
Or, am I somehow missing the point? I have often thought about the text in Malachi 3:10, where we are told that if we faithfully pay our tithes and offerings, we will have more blessings than we can even manage. Does this mean that faithful return of tithes and offerings will result in our having a lot of possessions? I confess that a clear answer to that question eludes me.
I also believe that that the Bible writers often employed hyperbole or exaggeration to make a point. Of course there is hunger. Of course there are those without enough clothing. So, the point has to be something other than a promise that God will always provide enough food or enough clothes. So I have to ask myself what kinds of blessings does God promise? What does God promise that allows me to be free of “worry about (my) life”?
I, therefore, have to believe that it is impossible for me to predict or even imagine the kinds of blessings that God is willing and anxious to give me. I think the point Matthew is trying to make is the importance of a focus on the important things in life. If my relationship with God is in order, then the blessings available to me are, in scope and magnitude, far greater than I can imagine. However, if my mind is continually focused on the material concerns of life, I may not even recognize the greater blessings that God is making available to me.
I must, therefore, conclude that it is okay to manage money wisely. It is okay to save for a rainy day. It is okay to work hard. But it is not okay to allow my focus on work or my focus on possessions to be more important than the focus on my relationship with God.