Thus speaks the voice of the world as expressed by Robert Frost’s in this poem,
The witch that came (the withered hag)
To wash the steps with pail and rag
Was once the beauty Abishag,
The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great and good
For you to doubt the likelihood.
Die early and avoid the fate.
Or if predestined to die late,
Make up your mind to die in state.
Make the whole stock exchange your own!
If need be occupy a throne,
Where nobody can call you crone.
Some have relied on what they knew,
Others on being simply true.
What worked for them might work for you.
No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard
Or keeps the end from being hard.
Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!
It is the voice of fear. You never know what’s going to happen. Provide, provide.
* * *
And then I read the parable of the Rich Fool, Luke 12 13-21 last week. He was somebody who certainly provided well, and yet God, who should know, called him a fool!!
And Jesus suggests an alternative financial planning strategy. If you have not saved, be completely relaxed. In fact, don’t worry about saving. Your Father feeds the ravens, clothes the lilies, has his eye on the sparrow, and on your thinning hair.
* * *
Listen to the voice of Jesus, the wise, startling, contrarian voice of Jesus:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!
And this precisely why the Gospel is good news. Good news for everyone, especially the poor.
If, like the majority of the world’s population, you have no savings to put in your storeroom or barn, rejoice anyway for Christ promises to clothe and feed you.
And if, like many people (including I, myself) you uneasily feel you have not saved enough, rejoice, for God promises to feed and clothe you.
And if, you are among the small minority who have saved more than you realistically need, rejoice, for you can give some of it away generously, storing treasure in God’s ultra-safe bank.
* * *
So which voice do we listen to? Trusting God in periods of fear and worry and uncertainty can be like going through a dark tunnel in which you hear rat’s feet over broken glass, see spiders loom in their aerial webs, whose urine is said to be so concentrated that a drop could blind you. And you hear voices whisper, whispers of dread.
But at the end there is light. God proves true to his promises.
How do I know? Two ways. Empirically, I have had repeated experiences of God working together everything for God. And through reading the Bible and reading biographies and hearing the stories of faithful Christians.
* * *
And what does not trusting God feel like. Providing, providing? Relying on uour own effort, sweat, cunning and cleverness?
It also feels like going through a dark tunnel in which you hear rat’s feet over broken glass, see spiders loom in their aerial webs. And you hear voices whisper, whispers of dread.
And at the end? Yet, another tunnel of fear and worry! For the voices of fear never shut up. “Perhaps you could lose it all. Inflation, taxation, the collapse of the banks, the financial system, the internet, the West. It’s happened before.” And, no matter the figures on your bank statement, the voice still says, Provide, Provide.
How do I know? I’ve known people like this. Haven’t you?
* * *
To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. (Ecc. 2:26)
Two pills, red and blue. Take the red pill of the world’s reality, refuse to entrust yourself and your money (or the lack of it) to God, and walk on the broad path of self-reliance. But this path narrows, worries never end, for few have the wisdom to realize they have enough.
Or try the blue pill of faith and trust, which few have taken, but has failed few. The road is narrow to begin with. It’s quieter.
You are trusting God with your career, so there’s a lot less hustling, and a lot less noise. You are trusting God with your income and savings, so there’s a lot less hustling. You are trusting him with friendships, and with your work in the world. You try to remember to ask for his guidance before you act, so everything gets a lot quieter.
But gradually, after you have paid your dues in the valley of obscurity, as you prove to be faithful in small things, life opens out.
You emerged from the narrow, strait, dark mountain path to a sun-bright plain. A world in which you are walking in your Father’s blessing, and seeing his magic. Your Father’s world.
And you love it! You are so relieved that you decided to take Jesus at his word.