Do you get worked up over the daily news? Do politics, weather events, or criminal activities make you feel as though the world is doomed for destruction? Do market fluctuations create a sense of anxiety about the future? What happens if you lose your income? How will you get by? What will you do if it all goes to pot?
Once our minds are set upon the rails of worry, they operate in a lower state of consciousness and switch over to a pre-rational, binary survival mode. You may wonder why I rarely engage or write about current events; this is why. It’s nearly impossible to elevate our conscious awareness by focusing upon everything that offends, scares, or angers us. Negativity and fear may be great commercial drivers, but they dull our soul.
The vast majority of our world is extremely addicted to “the feed” of current events. The smokescreen of “being informed” masks the real and deeper existential angst of worrying about our lives. The more we tune in, the more we validate our “sky is falling” disposition as reality, the more inoculated by fear (Tool reference intended) we are. Science has proven that the brain operating in fear or anxiety is primal, dualistic, highly irrational, and functions at a lower IQ.
This is the backdrop of our world; desperate, dependent and fearful. Always looking toward the biggest things we know (government, military, business, entertainment) to save us, protect us,provide for us, or distract us. We are anxious toddlers who behave in like manner.
This set up was necessary for us to see our next section in the sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells us: “Don’t worry about your life.”
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Whenever we see a “therefore” in scripture, we need to find out what it’s there for. In this case, Jesus is referencing the preceding verse (v.24) about not being able to serve both God and money. In v.33, when Jesus gives us the solution of seeking first the kingdom of God, most of us are left alone trying to figure out exactly what that means. How do we serve God rather than money and how exactly do we seek the kingdom first and its righteousness? I’ll come right back to this.
The bulk of Jesus’ teaching here describes the worrying human mind and how our Maker is well aware of what we need to survive. It describes a loving and caring “heavenly Father” who takes abundant care of flowers and birds which are viewed as lesser than ourselves. The benevolence cannot be understated here, he is reminding us of our value. Like children, we are shown that we have very little faith. Yet, Jesus’ proof that God will take care of things is not the same as offering a strategy for how an invisible God puts food on the table and clothes on our back. This gets us back to Jesus’ admonishment to seek the kingdom first, which as I’ve said is mostly pre-supposed but not really well explained in most sermons.
Worrying adds nothing to our life, so what are we to do?
The Greek word “basileia” means kingdom, reign, or rule of God. Most people think of the kingdom of God as heaven and conclude that seeking to go to heaven one day is how this is supposed to work–it doesn’t. Others interpret this as “putting God first” which gets us much closer until religion steps in and insists this means church every Sunday or a host of religious behaviors.
To understand a kingdom or rule is to understand submission within our heart. It’s submission to this moment. It is to BE. HERE. NOW. The rule of God is contrasted with the rule of man or money. For example: A “brown-noser” is someone who externally pays lip service to the ruler in order to gain advantage for themselves. A heart of submission surrenders or forfeits any advantage for the sake of the ruler. The former requires no trust in the ruler, only fear, while the latter requires only trust (faith) and eliminates all fear of the ruler.
The best application for this that I can offer is that of “Flow.” Seeking fist the “Rule of God” is to submit first to the Flow of life. It is to receive each moment as complete and lacking nothing. It is to forgive reality for being what it is. It is to join the dance of God in your life rather than resist, argue, defend, avoid, reject or suppress what IS. If you can discern the benevolence of God (Righteousness) which is behind the design of your life (Flow), then “all these things” (externals) will be byproducts rather than end-products.
For example: A successful career, marriage, or healthy life are not goals. These are what happens when the goal is doing the right thing (righteousness) in each moment. “do not worry about tomorrow”…”sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Losing weight, getting out of debt, taking on that big project are not goals. These are what happens when the goal is managing each moment in faith. In the present moment is either submission to the Rule of God, or submission to impulses or rule of self/man (éthno/ heathen/ unbeliever /gentiles). If we miss each moment, our minds default into the past which holds our regrets and nostalgia or the future which holds our worry or empty hope.
The wisdom of Jesus is always seen in paradox. If we close our fists tightly around our stuff, we will worry about it and miss life. If we open our hands and receive each Moment as the benevolent provider of all we need, then the stuff of life can pass freely in and out of our hands without any worry or attachment to it. This is a life that doesn’t need the nightly news, the latest trend, or to be given a name by some institution in our society. A person who can shed all of this distraction and weight is not a person with their head in the sand, but a person who has found inner and outer freedom. This is a person who can be in the world but not of the world.
The only antidote to worrying about our life, is to first submit to the Flow of Life within each moment. Richard Rohr always taught us to meet each moment with “Now this…” Trust (faith) what this process reveals, and everything that matters will be added in time. As you change and become free, you will be able to see all the abundant opportunity around you, and with your freedom, you can follow these opportunities into new envoys while enjoying all that life can offer without ever having to worry about any of it.
That is the kingdom of God and his righteousness. It’s right here as soon as we turn off the TV or our distractions. The question is: Do you want to grow up and find life and live it, or do you want to avoid life, indulge yourself, and hope for rescue?