TRANSLATION MATTHEW 6
So I am telling you, do not be anxious for your life, what you will eat, nor for your body, what you will wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Look to the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more excellent than them? Which of you by being anxious can add length to his life? And why be anxious about clothing? Consider the flowers of the countryside, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin; and yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not robed like one of these. And if God clothes so well the grass of the countryside, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown under the bread- maker, will he not all the more clothe you, people of tiny trust?
So do not be anxious, asking, “what shall we eat?” Or “ what shall we drink? Or “what shall we wear?” These are all things that the Gentiles crave. Your heavenly father knows that you need them all. But crave first of all his Rule and his right life and all these things will be added for you. So do not be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow can worry about itself. Each day has trouble enough of its own.
Here is teaching so wise and beautiful that we can easily believe it comes from God. Jesus is dealing with material anxiety. Perhaps all people are subject to this, but poor people most of all. And Jesus’ audience in Galilee were poor, including his disciples. So he is dealing with feelings of apprehension which are real and comprehensible. And at first hearing Jesus’ teaching is simply impertinent. What good is it to say to poor people, ‘surely life is more than food’? Well of course the well-fed middle class man may agree as he makes his way to the opera, but the poor person? So we have to imagine that Jesus assumes a community of poor people, doing as much as they can to make a living. But Jesus is asking, why add a pervasive anxiety to the burdens already being carried? Surely it helps if we assert the dignity of living people!
But still someone may reply to Jesus, “Well, I’d rather be a bird fed by the Heavenly Father than a human being apparently neglected by him.” Jesus is not daft; he knows that birds are part of an ecosystem that has available food. He wants his hearers to believe that they are also part of a world where sufficient food is available. Injustice may mean that it is not shared fairly, but even so, if they remember their excellence, their intelligence and their readiness to share, there will be enough. In fact, under the Rule of God, food will be shared more justly. But even now, before the Rule arrives in its fulness, especially now, it is important to live in trust as children of the God.
Jesus is not sentimental about the natural world; he knows that meadow flowers and grasses are cut down and used as fuel under the vessels for making bread. Still, look at how lovely they are! This is evidence of the care and generosity of the creator, who wants to beautify his human children too. The creation has not been abandoned by its maker; rather, God is active in creation, to make justice and beauty. Some of the poorest people know this, while many of the rich have forgotten it.
‘People of tiny trust’ is an affectionate rebuke of Jesus to his sceptical followers, remembered in Matthew’s tradition. Gentiles who do not know God may crave the means of life, but those who trust that God knows their need, will work for their needs without worry, while also craving God’s Rule and his right life. Yes, people who can live in this way are extraordinary, but Jesus believes his people can be so. The magical realism of Matthew, evident in his use of miraculous events, should also be seen in his account of Jesus’ teaching. Who on earth is up for what it demands, yet once heard, who in earth would want to be without it?
Outstanding! I especially appreciate: “Jesus is not daft; he knows that birds are part of an ecosystem that has available food. He wants his hearers to believe that they are also part of a world where sufficient food is available. Injustice may mean that it is not shared fairly, but even so, if they remember their excellence, their intelligence and their readiness to share, there will be enough.” If I understand you correctly, you are interpreting Jesus as saying: Forget the rich and how they are eating up the resources of the earth; they are the injustice that continues to dominate the world. Forget them. There is still enough food in the world. So share it, those who belong to the new world order of God’s justice, share it so that none among you goes hungry. This is the ecosystem of Jesus’ people fulfilling the commandment to love one another. After all, this was the ecosystem of the earliest church community in Jerusalem (Acts 2:42-47). Why did this ecosystem so quickly disappear? All the more reason to look to the birds of the air! Their ecosystem has also been destroyed by human greed, yet humans have responded by helping to feed them. Why can’t humans do that also for each other? Isn’t that going to be God’s judgment on us? Your writing provoked these thoughts today. I hope I didn’t misinterpret what you were intending to mean.
What a good comment!