In St. Luke’s Gospel there is a story the Lord tells of a man who had many crops; a man, in other words, who had many possessions. He had so many crops there was no room to store them all. So he came to the conclusion that he would tear down his barns and build bigger ones. “But,” the Lord concludes in this parable, “God said to him ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” (Luke 12:16-21).
And then the Lord says to His Disciples the same words we hear in the gospel this morning, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about your body, what you will put on. Life is more than food and the body is more than clothing.” (Luke 12:22-23)
Practically the entire reading from the gospel this morning is concerned with the Divine Providence of God towards man, and towards creation as a whole as the Lord says in the reading, very simply: “Do not worry about your life”. Though these are very comforting words since everyone essentially wants to have someone who will tell them that “everything will be okay”, “it’ll all work out” and “don’t worry”; this is also, ironically, one of the most difficult sayings of our Lord found in the gospels to fully accept. You know, people who suffer from the fear of flying, the fear of being in airplanes, among the causes for their phobia besides the fear of accidents and being in enclosed spaces is the fear of not being in control. And when the Lord gives us the parable about the man who had many possessions He is basically telling us the story of the man who is not fully in control of his life. For no matter how successful or wealthy or happy we might be at this particular moment in life our lives are ultimately in God’s hands.
But when the Lord tells us in the reading this morning not to worry for our lives He is not introducing us to some new care-free philosophy. True, He says that God will provide all the things we need but He also instructs that we must “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”. Or, as He points out earlier in the reading, we have to focus on God and not be distracted by the things of this life for “no one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other”.
In some translations, instead of the word “worry” the word “anxious” is used: “Do not be anxious about your life…”. The Greek word for ‘anxious’ literally means “to be drawn in different directions”. In other words, our faith and hope in God pulls us one way while our fears and our doubt pull us in another. And both worrying and anxiety definitely have physical side effects: headaches, ulcers, etc. Moreover, worrying affects our thinking, our digestion, people can’t eat because they’re worried about something.
Certainly this gospel in no way suggests to us that we not think about tomorrow and not plan for it, rather it warns us of the dangers of mistaken or disoriented or misguided thinking. That we not be pulled in many directions. For if God provides for the world, if He “clothes the grass of the field…will He not much more clothe you.”
These are the words of comfort which the Gospel brings us this morning. Moreover, they are the words of Christ. The reading this morning is taken from Matthew’s Gospel chapter 6, beginning with verse 22: “The Lord say, The lamp of the of the body….”. But when you look in your Bibles at Matthew 6:22 you’ll notice that that verse does not begin with the words “the Lord says”. No, the Church has wisely prescribed that these words “The Lord says…” begin many of the gospel readings we heard in Church for we do not rely on the words of human philosophy but we yearn to hear and understand these very words which the “Lord says”. After all, when the Lord Himself is speaking who can have a different opinion?
Yet, out of the weakness of our faith this can definitely – and very frequently – happen. As the church father, St Cyprian, writes: “Whenever a famous man promises you something, you would believe his promise and would not even dare to think that he who was always faithful to his word would deceive you. But behold, O treacherous one, God Himself speaks to you and you are wavering with doubt….”
Furthermore, when we open the pages of Scripture it is not merely to read and know the words that the Lord says but, more specifically, to follow them with a strong faith and an unwavering trust in His providing care for each and every single one of us. Amen.