I like the Serenity Prayer. It begins with “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” And that covers a lot of things doesn’t it? We spend a lot of energy and effort and anxiety hitting our heads against a very hard wall that cannot be moved. Anyone have a headache yet? And here’s the thing; we do this with things we care about. Otherwise, we wouldn’t bother. And caring about things is kind of important. The alternative is to not care. Why try to help people who don’t want to be helped? Why fret over the lost who refuse to listen to anything that even hints at the idea that they might be lost? Why get all anxious about those rebellious kids? But the truth is, that often our strengths slowly gravitate toward being flaws. Caring is important, but anxiously worrying about what cannot be changed is not healthy.
Luke 12:22-32 is Jesus’ teaching about worrying. And this is directed specifically to his disciples. Others were allowed to overhear. He begins with “for this reason” which tells us that this is part of a larger discourse. Because of the parable of the rich fool, who had abundant wealth but was not rich toward God, do not worry about your life or soul. The word worry means “care about,” but it can mean care pushed into anxiety. That is most likely the sense here. We, all of us, care about our lives. But don’t allow that care to be pushed into anxiety; a constant worrying about food and clothing. Life is more than food and clothing, but it demands both. So, how can we live without an anxious concern about food. The people Jesus was talking to, didn’t eat like we eat here and in other first world cultures. Most lived day to day; they ate when they had it. Jesus is saying that life is more than surviving. That is a tough lesson to sell.
He used the example of the raven. If this is the same account as that found in Matthew 6, we have to discuss why Luke decided to change the generic birds of the air to ravens, which is much more specific? If this is a similar message delivered at a different time, then the discussion is why did Jesus use ravens here? Either way, there is this change. In Job 38:41 God asked Job “Who prepares for the ravens its nourishment when its young cry to God and wander about without food?” So, maybe Jesus had this passage in mind. And notice the ravens are without food until God provides. Curious. Ravens are also considered unclean (Deuteronomy 14:14). So, maybe the thought is: If God provides for the unclean of the world, how much more you? That fits. In the ancient world, ravens were also considered to be careless birds. These careless, unclean birds, who don’t have the ability to sow, reap, or store, are, generally speaking, provided for. God knows when they don’t have food. And if you worry about food, can you add a single cubit to your life-span? Eighteen inches is not much when you are talking about a whole life. Worry cannot provide food. As a matter of fact, caring to the point of anxiety can rob you of time in this life.
And what about clothing? God has gloriously dressed up the fields with lilies. Solomon, who is never mentioned as a snazzy dresser, but who was known far and wide for being stinking wealthy, is compared to the fields. This grassland flowers, as beautiful as they are, are thrown into ovens to bake bread. And you? You are worth more than any here today and gone tomorrow flower. So, trust in God. He is aware of your abundance and your lack. Be rich toward him and stop fretting about food and clothes. Everyone in the world cares about these things. Don’t push your caring into anxiety. Instead seek the Kingdom and all of these things will be added to you. But what about my very poor, compared to me, brothers in Honduras. They often go hungry. Many have rags for clothes. Are they not faithful? And do ravens always have enough to eat? Are the fields always blanketed with beautiful flowers? Is this really a promise that the faithful will never starve? What about the Christians who were chucked into prison and denied food shortly after Jesus was resurrected? They did starve! What do we do with this conundrum?
Maybe verse 32 is the key. Do not be afraid little flock. Your father has gladly chosen to give you the kingdom. Are you hungry? Yours is the Kingdom of God. Are your clothes a bit to be desired? Yours is the Kingdom of the Almighty. Generally speaking, God has created this world to provide. Worrying, hording, anxiously fretting will not help anyone’s situation. And I’ve noticed this amazing thing. My brothers and sisters in places like Honduras seem to be less fretful over what they don’t have than those who have an abundance. What? Christians die. But they live on. Christians go hungry. But they sit at the table in the Kingdom. You, Sir and Madam, are feasting, all dressed up your royal clothing. Seek that!