Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The wisdom of Christ means: Don't Worry

I have been thinking often about my earlier reflection on Christian life as philosophy, as a pursuit of wisdom by learning from the Logos of God incarnate, Jesus of Nazareth. This way of approaching Christian life, as least to my mind, is very helpful and puts things in a new light.

Consider the question of worry. Suppose you've learned that paying your bills for the next month or three is going to be very tough; you've lost your job, or your relationship with your wife is souring quickly; you have received a daunting and worrying diagnosis from the doctor. What are you supposed to do? The natural human reaction is to worry --  dreadfully to anticipate the worst possible outcome.

Worry, of course, means losing any energy and strength to face the day and to move forward. The person who worries is consumed by the horrible prospects before her. She has no will to live any longer, because she is constantly worrying about the bad thing that can come upon her at any moment. Worry zaps a person of the ability of live in the world.

Yet Christ came to give us life abundantly (John 10.10). Therefore, those who would learn from him about how to live truly should heed this word about the disposition to worry:

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today (Mt 6.34).

Why shouldn't we worry about tomorrow? Why shouldn't we worry about the future? Christ's example is drawn from an interpretation of the natural order, which he himself designed and brought to existence:

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? 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. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (6.26-33).

What should the orientation of our life be? What things should we seek above all else? We might think that self-preservation is our primary task, the first law of the jungle. For this reason, when we seem to lose access to the resources necessary to the end of self-preservation, we worry and dread the inevitable moment of our death.

Christ teaches us that God is in control of all things, and we find ourselves living our lives moving about in the palm of his hand. God cares even for sparrows, and he took the time even to make the lilies of the field beautiful, more beautiful than Solomon himself, even though they are transient and fleeting. Knowing that God is control of all things, knowing that the Father who loves us is behind the scenes in everything, and whose attention doesn't skip over even the most insignificant aspects of his creation, Christ teaches us to trust and to have faith.

Worry about nothing, but especially not about the future. Not only will your worry accomplish nothing as regards avoiding the dreaded outcome, you will find yourself having wasted precious time. On the contrary, Christ teaches us to trust that our Father in heaven knows what he is doing, and instead to strive after his Kingdom above everything -- to strive after mercy, justice, love, faithfulness, and embodying the benevolent rule of God on the earth.

Those people who don't know what God is like -- the Gentiles -- live lives characterized by worry. But Jesus came to reveal the Father to us, and his message here, as elsewhere, is: Don't worry! Have faith! Your Father is good, and he knows what you need!

This is the wisdom of God: do not worry, but instead trust the Father.

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