Sunday, May 25, 2008

Reflection on Matthew 6:24-34

With income tax over 50% in some European countries and gas existing at $6 a gallon for a good number of years; I have to say that our slow increase toward $4 has left me fairly unconcerned. Perturbed at times: yes. Heart pounding, sweaty palmed concerned: no. It is all a matter of perspective. What seems bad to us now has been the way of life in other parts of the world. People learn to adjust to new situations. There is little to worry about.

However, when I sat down at my computer and read a recent article on Yahoo Green written by Samantha Gross of the Associated Press entitled, Energy Fears Looming, New Survivalists Prepare, May 24, 2008, I took a step back to reconsider.

The article read:

BUSKIRK, N.Y. “A few years ago, Kathleen Breault was just another suburban grandma, driving countless hours every week, stopping for lunch at McDonald's, buying clothes at the mall, watching TV in the evenings.
That was before Breault heard an author talk about the bleak future of the world's oil supply. Now, she's preparing for the world as we know it to disappear.

Breault cut her driving time in half. She switched to a diet of locally grown foods near her upstate New York home and lost 70 pounds. She sliced up her credit cards, banished her television and swore off plane travel. She began relying on a wood-burning stove.

"I was panic-stricken," the 50-year-old recalled, her voice shaking. "Devastated. Depressed. Afraid. Vulnerable. Weak. Alone. Just terrible."

Now, you can correct me if I am wrong, but I think that Kathleen from Buskirk just may fall under the category that Jesus may label: “worried.” Jesus' teaching on not worrying about what you will eat, drink, or wear just may apply to her. But, she’s not the only one. She is simply joining the growing ranks of worriers. The article continues:

Determined to guard themselves from potentially harsh times ahead, Lynn-Marie and her husband have already planted an orchard of about 40 trees and built a greenhouse on their 7 1/2 acres. They have built their own irrigation system. They've begun to raise chickens and pigs, and they've learned to slaughter them.

The couple have gotten rid of their TV and instead have been reading dusty old books published in their grandparents' era, books that explain the simpler lifestyle they are trying to revive. Lynn-Marie has been teaching herself how to make soap. Her husband, concerned about one day being unable to get medications, has been training to become an herbalist.

By 2012, they expect to power their property with solar panels, and produce their own meat, milk and vegetables. When things start to fall apart, they expect their children and grandchildren will come back home and help them work the land.

Wait a second here, would Jesus really have a problem with what this couple is doing? They are learning to live off of the land. They are learning how to live self-sufficiently. They are preparing amply for the future. This is a biblical notion. Was not the moral of the Joseph story: make sure that you have enough food stored away in case there is a famine? The moral was: be prepared. Was not the problem with the Prodigal’s Son the fact that he was foolish, squandering all his money, leaving himself unprepared for the famine to come? These biblical teachings, one from Jesus himself, indicate that at least a little bit of worry is good. I do not think that we should worry about being worried? Because then we will come to church and worry that we were worried about being worried, and then we really do have a problem. Is not just a little worry healthy?

I have to admit that I have had secret fantasies about what I would do in the case of a world economic disaster. Here are the questions I have asked myself as I have stared out the window at my property: “Do I know how to plant a garden?” “Do I know how to can food?” “Do I know how to keep meat cool if I have no electricity?” “Do I know what box my backpacking water filter is in?” “Randele, do we have candles somewhere in this cluttered house?” “Does an oak table burn well enough and slow enough to create days of heat?” “Will apple trees grow in two years?” “What if a tree grows its first apple and someone steals it?” “Will a child’s plastic, single pump air soft hand gun be enough to ward away evil apple thieves?” “What if my last two packages of pork chops do not last four years. Will that air soft hand gun kill a buck?”

The article also states:

Convinced the planet's oil supply is dwindling and the world's economies are heading for a crash, some people around the country are moving onto homesteads, learning to live off their land, conserving fuel and, in some cases, stocking up on guns they expect to use to defend themselves and their supplies from desperate crowds of people who didn't prepare.

That is right, in a world where there is a shortage of food, you cannot trust your neighbors. It is every man for himself if you want to survive. Get the gun ready. Defend your property. Defend your family. Defend your trees. Defend your pigs. Shoot on first sight. Do not allow anyone the chance to get the upper hand.

And, to this sort of worry driven attitude I imaging that Jesus would yell, “Stop. What sort of god are you worshiping anyway? The god of hording? The god of me me me? The god of wealth? If you are willing to kill a person whose only sin is that they are hungry, what sort of god are you worshipping, because it certain is not the one God almighty?"

"No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. '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?"

Are there not more important things in life, little things such as grace, love, forgiveness, caring, giving, and compassion for your neighbor? Get your head screwed on straight and sit down. Put down your pitch fork and your gun and sit down in the grass for a second while I teach you something.

"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?"

No. In fact, worrying drains away hours of time that could have been used for Godly things. And now look down for a second.

"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. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.”

There is something that I forgot to mention about the Joseph story. In the story, God sent Joseph to Egypt to prepare the entire nation for the famine. Because God sent Joseph, an entire people were saved from starvation and economic destruction. God did not tell Joseph to horde his food so that he could save himself. One could say that Joseph strove first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. Joseph did not forget the people around him. Joseph did not send away empty handed those who were hungray. Nor did he shoot those who were caught unprepared for the famine, such as his own family. Joseph strove first for the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness, and everything that Joseph needed was given to him as well.

When God provides, God provides for all people. It may be by your hands and by your garden that God provides, but do not be mistaken, it is for all. This is true, both in the times of economic crisis and in times when many can still afford $4 gasoline.

"Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today.”

All Scripture quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyrighted, 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and is used by permission. All rights reserved.

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