Wednesday, August 7, 2013

First Things First

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6: 25-34

Reflection – The light of faith shining upon us from the Sermon on the Mount has a certain attractiveness here. A life without worry or care—what a hope! At the same time it is all too easy for us to lapse into cynicism here, like the prospective father-in-law interrogating his daughter’s intended about his prospects and plans. The young man kept answering ‘God will provide’ to every question. The man turned to his wife and said, “He’s a nice enough guy, but he thinks I’m God!”

It is important to follow precisely what the Lord is saying to us here. Jesus is telling us not to worry; he is not telling us not to work. He is telling us not to be anxious; he is not telling us not to be foolish. And he is most emphatically telling us to put first things first: the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and to not let concerns about money and economic security ever impinge on those fundamental priorities.

God is bigger, and will (does) take care of us if our priorities are indeed set on his kingdom and his righteousness. Catherine Doherty used to tell incoming members of Madonna House, “I promise you three meals a day. They may not be square ones.” God takes care of us, perhaps not with steak and lobster, but with beans and rice anyhow, and what more do we need?

This is a Gospel of urgent importance in our world today. The economic forecasts are poor, although of course not even the experts really know what’s coming. And there is more and more pressure, as the pace of secularization increases and freedom of religion is reduced to freedom of worship more and more aggressively, to park one’s conscience at the office door, to get on with the business of making a living and doing whatever you gotta do to provide for yourself and your family. After all, God will not provide, right?

So this Gospel calls us to grapple very deeply with the basic question of faith and life. Is God, His kingdom, and His righteousness of such all-encompassing importance and goodness in our lives that we should risk unemployment and impoverishment for His sake?

Deep stuff, and I realize I can barely scratch the surface of these complex questions of the moral law, conscience, and workplace ethics in a short blog post. But we have to start by taking the Gospel seriously, more and more in our days of moral chaos and uncertainty, and decide just what our priorities are, and just how much we actually believe in this Jesus guy and the words He has spoken to us. Is He going to take care of us or not? That’s the first and most urgent question.


  1. You are very definitive about what Jesus words, as passed down in the New Testament mean.

    1. Yes - well, I read them from the heart of the Catholic tradition, so I feel pretty confident about my reading of it.


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