We’re studying Max Lucado’s book Fearless in our ladies’ Sunday school class. I’m not a huge Lucado fan; in fact, this is the first of his books that I’ve read. It was my turn to teach last Sunday, and this particular chapter addresses the common fear of the “coming winter” – i.e., being afraid of running out of life’s necessities. The natural human reaction to such fear is to stock-pile provisions for tomorrow. The way to keep from worrying about tomorrow is simply to make sure that tomorrow’s needs are provided for, right?
Wrong, says Jesus.
And the more I consider this lesson from Lucado, the more I’m struck with how bizarre it is to our American sensibilities. Consider three stories in Scripture that are given to instruct us about how to live with our possessions:
The farmer. He is the classic stock-piler for tomorrow. He’s successful. He plans. Jesus doesn’t describe him as an evil man. His sins are not enumerated. He’s not greedy or dishonest. So, why is he such a bad example for us? Because he was thinking of the temporal instead of the eternal – that’s all. His mind was on his possessions and how they would give him a comfortable tomorrow, a secure next year, a fine retirement.
How many of us do exactly that?
But it’s wrong, Jesus says. God had already planned for the farmer’s life to end that very night. All his work? For nothing, because he’d stored it for himself. He could have given it to the poor, needy, hungry, as God would like him to. He could have trusted God to provide for tomorrow’s food, and let the money provide for a fellow human. That is God’s desired economy. That’s how it’s supposed to work, for Christians: we take care of others, and God takes care of us.
But we don’t do that, do we?
The Samaritan woman. Consider Jesus’s conversation with her, in John 4. It’s lunch time. Jesus is hungry and thirsty. So is the woman who comes to draw water. Jesus tells her he has “living water” – something that satisfies in such a way that one is never thirsty again. When his disciples question him later about what he ate for lunch while they were gone, Jesus replies, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work …. Already the one who reaps [the harvest of lost souls] is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life ….” We read right over passages like that, assuming it’s all spiritual mumbo-jumbo, and isn’t referring to how we really eat and drink. But Jesus is saying that the work we do for God’s kingdom here is our provision for ourselves, for our future. We can stock-pile! But in heaven, not here. The Christian who leaves temporal worries in the Lord’s hands, and turns his attention to the spiritual harvest, will have his needs met both in this world and the next.
Jesus’s instructions in Luke 12:22 & 29 are real – He means them. “I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on …. And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Do you see that? Don't seek your next meal?
Are any of us really willing to live that way? Give all to the kingdom? Make no provisions for ourselves? Think only of heaven?
I sigh heavily as I admit that I am not up to that myself. How weak we American Christians are in this regard! We will not – we will not -- let go of our purse strings.
The widow. This poor woman in the temple was the exemplary giver. She gave up tomorrow’s food. All the money she had – all she might use to buy her next meal – she gave to God. In doing so, she said, “God I give this to You because I trust you to provide my next mouthful.”
Many Christians give thousands to the church, thousands to charity. But it never imperils their beach vacation, their next new car, or the new hot tub, much less their next meal.
How much would you have to give up, in order to risk your next meal?
According to James, true religion – true devotion to God – is shown in caring for the needy, for orphans and widows, and by keeping ourselves unstained by the world’s sin. If you’re tending to “you and yours,” and stock-piling insurance against tomorrow’s needs, Jesus indicates that you’re not practicing true religion.
Then, what kind of religion are you practicing?