Scripture: Luke 12:22-31
Key verse: (31) “Instead, strive for God’s kingdom, and all these things will be given you as well.”
Reflection: “Do not worry about your life.” That’s what Jesus tells the disciples in our reading for the day. Really? Don’t worry. That’s it? Easier said than done. It seems anxiety is at the heart of the human condition. Simply saying, “Don’t worry, be happy,” won’t work. In his book, Good and Evil: Interpreting a Human Condition, theologian Edward Farley suggests our anxiety grows from “the intrinsic vulnerability and tragic character of the human condition.” At every level of human existence—the personal, the interpersonal, and the social — we are vulnerable, and that makes us anxious.
On an individual level, we have a passion for self-preservation, yet we are finite beings who will all eventually die. We are vulnerable to physical injury, disease, pain, and death. This inherent conflict between our passion for life and the reality of death leads us to be anxious. Interpersonally we desire a relationship with others. To quote Genesis, “it is not good for a person to be alone.” But human relationships require us to be vulnerable. When we open our heart to another, we run the risk of being rejected. At some point, we will all be hurt. This tension born of the vulnerability inherent in relationship makes us anxious. The vulnerabilities of our personal lives and relationships expand to the social realm. We are built for community, yet there is a tragic reality that we cannot all get along. We herd together around categories of race, ethnicity, economic status, politics, religion, or nation, just to name a few. These groups inevitably clash in seeking to meet their own needs, making us chronically anxious.
To ease our anxieties we seek some form of security in the material world. We believe that if we only had more money, or more power, or a younger physique, or a more attractive face, then we would be secure. But our anxieties are only enhanced. The Bible has a word for that: idolatry. Nothing in the material world can ease this anxiety, only that which is beyond the material can temper our worry. Paul Tillich, Farley’s teacher, called this antidote, “being founded in the sacred,” in “the ground of being.” Jesus put it this way: “Strive for God’s kingdom.” In the midst of life’s anxiety, seek God’s abiding presence. That’s what we do when we read a devotional. That’s what we do when we take time for prayer and meditation. That’s what we do when we volunteer at the Crisis Assistance Center, or the Men’s Shelter, or at Billingsville, or at the Habitat build. That’s what we do in worship. We seek God, and if only for those moments, our anxieties are eased.
This is the tension that is the life of faith. Jesus knows these tensions. If he didn’t, why would he have had to tell his disciples not to worry? As you face the anxieties today will have to offer you, as the old praise song puts it, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.” May God’s abiding presence bring you calm in the midst of life’s storms, and that peace that passes all understanding to guard your heart and mind in Christ.
Prayer: I take a moment this day to be still … and to know that you are God … and to know you are with me. Thank you for your presence. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].