From The Call August, 2019
“And why be anxious about clothing? Learn a lesson from the way the wildflowers grow. They don’t work; they don’t spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in full splendor was arrayed like one of these.”
(Matthew 6:28-29, The Inclusive Bible)
It is the time of year when we begin to worry about clothing. If we are going back to school, we worry about being dressed in an acceptable, even impressive, way. If we are in a line of work where there are requirements for looking professional, we don’t want to look dowdy or out of fashion. And if we are going to be attending special events, we may not get away with the relaxed, casual look that was ok during the summer.
But it goes deeper than that. We know that people will make assumptions about us, and judge us, by how we look and what we wear, and that worries us. We are easily embarrassed if our attire is not appropriate or reveals that we are not financially secure, or worse, that we aren’t up on the latest fashions! In Jesus’ time ministering in Palestine, clothing was the mark of where you were on the social ladder, and it revealed a lot about you. Roman citizens dressed differently than others and Galileans had their own “look.” In the above passage, Jesus seems to be telling his followers to rise above that kind of shallow thinking. Later in the life of the church, Paul makes it clear that making such distinctions is not helpful to the community of faith and should be set aside.
But at the root of most of our insecurities is the nagging suspicion that we don’t have enough. We don’t have enough money, respect, friends or success. And then we start grasping and hoarding and impressing and striving. So Jesus asks us to consider how creation really works. He points to the “birds of the air,” and the “flowers in the fields.” They have a beauty and majesty that human beings cannot, by our own striving replicate. And, he points out, we don’t need to worry about it. We are already “clothed” with a beauty and wonder that is simply a given. We just need to recover our sense of trust that God will provide and make our lives what they are supposed to be.
Now, I understand that our economy doesn’t usually accommodate that kind of thinking. We are conditioned to be independent and provide for ourselves and for our households, and that is not, in itself, a bad thing. But we are also too easily persuaded that there is scarcity and uncertainty in the world that drives up the costs of what we need and makes some unable to “afford” essentials, like medications or medical care. The drug companies have convinced us that not only do we have to pay (handsomely) for our drugs, but we must also pay for the development of drugs that we may not even need. Scarcity.
As I look over the Iowa countryside in August, I am always impressed by the abundance of God’s creation. The green fields waving in the wind and the groves of trees and even the weeds that grow alongside the roads speak of an abundance that cannot be contrived by human ingenuity or purchased with the deep pockets of corporations. So I try not to worry. There are clothes in my closet and food in my refrigerator. I have friends and family who will help me out if I need it, and I am ready to help them also. Even if I were to lose my home and everything in it, I would not be destitute, because the world I live in is fundamentally abundant and the people in it are more likely to share than to be selfish. So the “back to school” sales help, but the real source of my well-being is a Creator that has so ordered the universe, that my life is filled with abundance. Why should I worry, then about such unimportant things as food, or drink, or clothes?