Matthew 6:25-34. ‘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? 26Look 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? 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30But 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? 31Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” 32For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.’
In the novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, one of the reasons the “Hitchhiker’s Guide” referred to in the text is so useful a book is because it has inscribed on its cover in large letters the words “DON’T PANIC.” It seems to me that these words are useful to remember in more times and places than just the book, and now is one of them.
Let’s be honest: the economy is in the tank, and won’t be bouncing back in the next couple of years.
Let’s be even more honest: We have been and are still incredibly blessed by God. If you have access to a computer and the internet to read this post, you have access to more resources than most people on this planet have ever had, no matter how hard you have been hit by the recession. If you live in the “first world,” then you almost certainly have a safety net of social programs (both secular and religious) to help when things are at their worst. They may not be ideal or as good as they should be, but they are still better than the majority of the world’s population has ever had access to. God has given us many blessings, and he gives them abundantly.
In some ways, we’ve been too blessed. We are used to having so much that as a society we’ve forgotten how to tell the difference between wants and needs, between things that are handy and cool and things that truly sustain our bodies and souls. The world around us tells us that we need the newest iPhone, the hottest car, the biggest TV, the fastest computer, the biggest house, the latest tech toy, trendy clothes, to go out to eat all the time. Thinking like that gets people into financial trouble, by encouraging them to spend more than they can afford, leaving them no savings to fall back on in times of trouble. But even worse than that, it causes spiritual trouble in both good times and bad.
In good times, our cultural addiction with spending money encourages people to turn away from God by promising happiness through material things. We take the abundance God has given us and depend on it without ever thinking about the one who gave it to us.
When things turn bad, our response is even worse. Because we’re convinced that the abundance God has given us is the minimum necessary for survival, we panic at the idea of having to get by on less. And in our panic, we turn even further from God, grasping at anything that might keep us in the style we have become accustomed to. I’ve seen a lot of that lately, both within and outside of the church.
DON’T PANIC. Or, as Jesus puts it in our Gospel today, don’t worry. Don’t bury your head under the sand, either, but don’t worry about all the things that might go wrong. Remember how much abundance you have been given. Then take a good hard look at how you have used the abundance God has given you–your time, your talents, your posessions. Have you used God’s gifts as a faithful Christian, or have you used that abundance selfishly? Have you fallen into the trap of thinking material posessions lead to happiness? If so, what can you do to change your thinking and your way of life to be more faithful and wholesome?
DON’T WORRY. You are in God’s hands. You have been in God’s hands all your life. God knows what you need. Many people in this world will need to change their spending habits because of the financial crisis, or take other actions to deal with the situation. But don’t do so out of panic or worry over all the bad things that might happen, over the fact that you might not be able to do and have all the things you wanted. Do so in faith that God will help you meet your needs–your true needs, not your wishes. Know that God loves you, and will never abandon you.
No one can lengthen their life or affect the world’s economy by worrying about it. No one can make themselves happier by worrying. The world and we ourselves are where we have always been: in the hands of a God who loves us, and loves us abundantly, and has given us many gifts. And who will never abandon us, no matter how much we despair. So don’t worry.