Eugene Peterson’s book Eat this Book teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina.
In this passage from Matthew, Jesus explains that our minds and our souls can be free and unfettered when we place our faith in the Kingdom, not in the treasure we hoard.
Where is Your Stockpile?
Matthew 19-21; 24-26
“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being. . . . ” “You can’t worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You can’t worship God and Money both. If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. . . . Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds. . . . “
If we were living in the times Matthew describes, we, as apprentices of Jesus, would be included in the description of the disciples found just after this passage: “you of little faith.” That term does not accuse them/us as being utterly lacking in faith; it is meant to “bolster, increase, and stretch that faith” (The Spiritual Formation Bible). So, people of God, stretch your faith and take this passage as seriously as it was taken by the one who spoke it. Jesus says our security is to be found with God not in the resources we stockpile on earth. We are to put our faith in the Kingdom of God (or in the Dominion of God which refers to a reign or realm rather than a place.) We are not to fuss or worry about our daily lives; we are to live as the birds live – unfettered and free. That does not mean that we not feather our nests or look for food. It means we do what we are able and trust God for the rest.
I’m in the middle of one of those times when it is tempting to say, “I’m not supposed to take this literally.” Currently my medication expenses are overwhelming; I anticipate that soon they will be even higher. Looking at the receipts and the reports from insurance company, I wonder, “How is it possible for me to be careless (care-less) in the care of God.” And yet, in the past, I have been just that and God has taken care of every essential. So I put the receipts and reports away again, and again I let go of the worry and turn it over to God. I am training to seek the Kingdom and watch how God takes care of what I need.
How do I know that the training works? Today I was in the check-out line with a basket of groceries. I had just paid for $180 worth of prescriptions and knew that I would need another filled next week that would be at least that amount. The woman in front of me was distressed because the cash register shows no balance in her WIC account (funding for mothers and children). It was a glitch in the store’s computer system so they told her she wouldn’t be able to purchase those items for her kids. “But my son needs his baby food; we are all out.” I watched the scene for a few minutes and then quietly offered to pay for the baby food. She thanked me and said, “No, we’ll try another store.” Her four-year-old daughter looked at me woefully.
As I thought over my offer (mostly wondering if I had embarrassed the mother), it occurred to me that I was offering money I really couldn’t afford. Was I careless or was I care-less? I thanked God for enabling me to be care-less.
This passage encourages us to “let go” of our possessions, of our wants and desires, of our worries. This requires training in making choices to give our cares to God.
♥ Read Matt 6: 19-34 slowly a few times until a word or phrase pops out. Stop reading. Ask God what he wants to say to you through that word or phrase. Mull them over in your mind. Pray about what you learn.
♥ Choose one of your favorite possessions (for me it would be a book) and give it to someone, preferably someone you don’t know. This does not mean emptying your closet of clothes you no longer want. It means choosing something you still love and giving it away. If that was very difficult or you couldn’t make yourself do it, think about your attachment to things. Do they get in the way of what God might ask you to do?
♥ When you begin to worry, create a “gratitude” list. Think of all the ways God has provided for you in 2015. Then, as The Message says, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matt. 6:34).
MORE FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“From the window I notice a small brown wren huddled on the grass beneath the bird feeder, struggling to fly. The frigid wind bends the branches of the crab apple tree. Fifteen minutes pass. He cannot seem to find the strength. Is he sick? Too weak? It seems sad. But I supposed there is little I can do for him.
Suddenly my attention is drawn to another wren that flies to the feeder. I am astonished as she begins to toss seed with her beak from the ledge of the feeder down to the grass below. The kernels fall upon the little bird and he pecks at them, satisfying her hunger. The next time I pass the window he’s gone.
All day I watch the wrens at the feeder, think how we are put here not only to partake, but to feed the hungers of those around us. Drop seed. Drop seed” (Sue Monk Kidd in Firstlight).