Today I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday, where we write for five minutes on a given prompt. This week's word is PROVIDE.
In the Sermon on the Mount recorded in the book of Matthew, Jesus tells his listeners, "Do not worry." He encourages them to look at the birds and flowers, who don't spend time worrying about where their next meal will come from or whether they'll have warm clothes to get them through the winter. Be like them, Jesus says. "Your heavenly Father knows you need these things." He will provide.
Those are easy words for me to accept. I live in a warm, comfortable house. We have enough money to pay for heating and food and clothing -- and plenty left over for luxuries. I have never worried about whether I'll have enough food or clothing or whether my gas supply will be cut off in the middle of winter, leaving our family in the cold. But the people Jesus was speaking to must have had reason to worry about these things.
Jesus goes on to say, "Seek God's kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." It sounds like a simple equation: "Put God first, and all your material needs will be provided."
But it doesn't seem to work that way in real life. Millions of people in the world still do worry about food and clothing and shelter -- and those needs are not met. They will go to bed hungry and cold tonight, whether or not they've tried their best to put God and his kingdom first.
Some Christians, faced with the undeniable reality that God doesn't always provide, reach for simplistic cliches that attempt to get God off the hook, like
- "If you don't have something, that means God knew you didn't really need it." (Uh, well ... we need food to survive.)
- "God sometimes tests our faith by making us wait for what we need." (Imagine God making a starving baby wait just a bit longer for milk in order to test its faith.)
- "Doesn't the Bible say 'You have not because you ask not'?" (This is a classic example of snatching a phrase we remember hearing somewhere in Scripture and applying it completely out of context, while also implying that those in need are probably doing something wrong.)
Using these pat statements is something only the privileged can afford to do (and I include myself in that). Privilege allows us to keep the poor at arm's length and makes us feel entitled to counsel them from a place of superiority.
But Jesus is not preaching from that place of privileged superiority. He comes down to our level to stand in solidarity with the poorest and meekest among us and invites us to a new life with him. Those of us who are privileged and well-provided-for should be part of helping to provide for others' needs and seeing their well-being and ours as a common cause.
I have a long way to go to even get close to this radical way of thinking and living. I find it way too easy to feel comfortable and complacent about what I've been provided with. No wonder Jesus commented on how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.