Is it wrong to eat, drink and clothe ourselves too much?

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 49:14-15

Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me; my LORD has forgotten me." Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Brothers and sisters: Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. It does not concern me in the least that I be judged by you or any human tribunal; I do not even pass judgment on myself; I am not conscious of anything against me, but I do not thereby stand acquitted; the one who judges me is the Lord. Therefore do not make any judgment before the appointed time, until the Lord comes, for he will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will manifest the motives of our hearts, and then everyone will receive praise from God.

Matthew 6:24-34

Jesus said to his disciples: "No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. "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 clothing? Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, 'What are we to eat?' or 'What are we to drink?'or 'What are we to wear?' All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil."

The examples that Jesus used in today’s Gospel reading remind us of what we often overlook, that nature manifests God’s wonderful work and its orderly continuation displays His divine providence (rf Is 45:18). All too easily we let ourselves fall into the illusion that we are the master of the world, that by technology and wealth, we are even capable of sustaining ourselves in existence!

On the other hand, we may mistakenly read into today’s message that it calls for a kind of lax or “do nothing” attitude in life. In saying “tomorrow will take care of itself” (NAB), Jesus certainly did not mean to downplay the importance of hard work or human foresight and prudence. What He wanted to point out is that undue anxieties, worries and preoccupations with material necessities are unnecessary if not useless in this life. These inordinate attachments and concerns will only weigh us down and enslave us. When Jesus invited us to look to the birds and the lilies, He did not mean to encourage us to imitate their idleness. It is rather their complete reliance on God that Jesus relished. The birds do not sow, reap or gather into barns and the lilies do not toil or spin. They are contented with the natural endowment that comes from God. The birds soar with the wind that God provides beneath their wings. The lilies grow splendidly despite their evanescence and the threat of weather. Their “work” is to allow themselves to be part of God’s work.

It may seem a bit far fetched when Jesus asked us to seek God’s kingdom first. In our mundane world, to eat, drink, and clothe ourselves are, after all, elemental and essential needs. But what Jesus means is we should move away from extraneous concerns over human needs and move towards our spiritual needs, that of adoration and filial trust in God the Father. Hence, a perfect orientation of a Christian life is to cope with those problems in daily life which we can handle and leave those beyond our control in God’s hands. Since God is all knowing and all loving, He sees beyond our stray desires and our superfluous needs and will provide us with what He knows best for us. When we take our attention away from those distractions and let the concern of the coming kingdom be truly at our hearts, it is then that we begin to experience what it means by “all these things shall be given you besides”.

Posted: February 26, 2017

May Tam

May Tam, Bachelor of Social Science (University of Hong Kong), Master of Theological Studies (University of Toronto)

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