It’s funny, and a bit tragic, how some extremely radical words of Jesus which should make all rich people very uncomfortable, can be misinterpreted into some cosy, fluffy inspiration that rich people can quote on their living room wall and feel warm inside about. I’m specifically thinking on Jesus’ words about the birds and the lilies:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
Notice the word “therefore” in the beginning of the passage. This is obviously a word that links it to what is immediately said before it, which in this case is:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Where the NIV writes “money”, the original gospel writes “Mammon”, an Arameic word which more accurately means “wealth”. This we shouldn’t serve, says Jesus. A few verses earlier, He specifically says that we shouldn’t store “treasures” on earth, which clearly means wealth (see Jam 5:1-3).
Thus, Jesus command about not worrying about food and clothing but to be like birds and lilies, do not speak to a wealthy context but to a life of simplicity and dependency. This is not surprising: why would the rich really worry about food and clothing? It is those who are poor or have a very simple lifestyle, dependent on good weather and good people, who worry about necessities. The rich may worry that the new Star Wars film sucks or that their children may not become super successful, but they can’t really relate to what Jesus is saying.
To those who do have reason to worry for fundamentals, the Son of God brings comfort:
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
The capitalist pagans of this world run around like crazy worrying for sustenance and wealth, but we Christians live simply not in spite of but because of the risks it may involve to our future and economic gains. We trust God for our food and clothing. We feel no need for oppressing others or building walls and fortresses to “secure” our own assets. At least, we should not; if we do we’re like pagans.
Even if verse 33 is constantly being taken out of context to provide some cosy cute comfort for the upper middle class, it is clear that it is a promise to those who are radical. Let’s be those people.