By Amber Noel
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 6:25-34
25 “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? 26 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? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 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? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But 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.”
I guess I’m a Gentile. I pretty much, off and on, all the time, find myself worrying. I worry things won’t work out. I worry I’ve done something wrong. Getting in accidents, running late, relationships, the future — name your concern.
And these worries have often driven me (literally) to worry about food and clothing — in a very late-capitalist way — by shopping. I’ll never forget hearing a clergy friend confess her very excusable, but very real, sinful addiction to shopping for clothes and shoes when she was single. I get it. From IKEA to Kinfolk magazines to the Anthropologie sales floor, images of a beautiful, tasteful, controlled existence comfort me immensely when I’m afraid of being let down by others, myself, life — and, let’s face it, by God.
Being “anxious for your life,” I’ve found, really means I’m anxious that God won’t take care of me. To look good, feel good, eat well — these are good gifts, Jesus assures us (“Look at the birds! Look at the lilies!”), and it’s right for humans to toil and spin, and sometimes to spend money on beautiful and delicious things. And yet, we have deeper needs. Sometimes we’re anxious because we forget what God has given us life for. And sometimes we’re anxious because that bigger picture feels so overwhelming, so difficult to grasp, so impossible to fulfill — and will God really come through? And, um, how, exactly?
These heartbreaking human questions get to the core of life with God. I believe they are also a wound that God himself, and life with him, has to heal. Maybe if I — or you — pay more attention, just today, to the ways God is (literally) clothing and feeding us, we will see his providence and grow in our faith in other ways too. Because our deeper need, primarily, is the need to trust. It is trust that nourishes us, protects us, and beautifies us before God.
Amber Noel, M.Div., is Associate Editor at the Living Church and Associate Director of The Living Church Institute. Off the clock, she is the author of short fiction, book and culture reviews, and work for the stage.
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