“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
This is an odd way of expressing things, but only because we tend to interpret it wrongly. Again, as presented in previous meditations, we tend to Americanize Jesus’ teaching on worry and make it into some sort of motivational “live for today” motto. But understood properly, it’s a foundation for St. Paul’s words that, “God is faithful, [and] will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.”
Key is the phrase “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Or as one lexicon translates it, “each day makes us suffer in a special way.” That’s a bit of a different tone than “Live for today!”
Contracting our vision to a single day is a powerful philosophical foundation. Think of what that entails. It first entails a revolution in our understanding of time. We see time at a bird’s eye view. We see our life ahead of us in weeks, months, and even years. “Where do you see yourself ten years from now,” is the type of stuff career counselors smartly ask, to tease out of an interviewee a clue as to his character. Is he the type who plans and cares about his future? Or is he someone who lives only for the moment?
Now, the Bible is not a “live for the moment” kind of book, as several proverbs make clear. “Living for the moment” suggests certain values – living by passions, indulging whims, not being concerned about how ones decisions impact others – that the Bible does not endorse. Yet, living for the future can suggest other values the Bible doesn’t endorse either – worry, lack of trust, miserliness, fear. Jesus tells parables against building extra barns, on account of covetousness.
Both the worry wart planner and the whimsical one are ultimately driven by covetousness, and covetousness helps us realize that very often the planner is nothing more than someone, due to his own personality traits, casting his covetousness over an organized long time rather than a single moment. So he was smart enough to retire early and get a boat and a cabin, rather than having the cabin and boat combined with massive debt and other problems. Still, covetousness is the root, and that is idolatry.
Idolatry is antithetical to the Gospel, because of Mammon. As we said early in this week’s meditation, Mammon takes our focus off what is given us in any given day – the good creation God set Adam in – and relocates it to that one area of non-good, the knowledge of evil. What is that? It’s the lack, the vacuum we think needs to be filled; it’s whatever we think we need beyond what the Lord has given. And it casts a pleasant looking fruit in our minds, good for eating. That’s why we pursue it.
Jesus teaches a contracted vision – to a single day – combined with an otherworldly vision – set on the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Those two things, when working together, will provide everything needed for this life. The one who lives this way will be generous, free of worry, not frivolous, and not stressed. He will do as God has given him to do, and if wealth follows, he will be generous with it. If not, he’ll still be generous with it, because he’s filled with the riches of heaven.
But still, that vision, while anchored in heaven, is not by any means “otherworldly.” Remember how the Lord began the Gospel, directing us to the birds and the lily. Remember how he spoke of our bodies and lives, teaching that both are “more than” food, drink, and clothing. God created us in bodies, gave us lives, for something greater than what this world has become, with its constant covetousness and craving for whatever we don’t have.
The lily and birds snap us out of any “head in the clouds” spiritualism, in the same way that the sacraments keep us anchored on the creation. Jesus’ teaching, in fact, while seeming anti-earthly, is ultimately pro-earth – consider the lilies and birds, and be delighted in the riches of heaven while strolling through a park! Meanwhile, Satan’s religion (or Mammon’s), while claiming to be pro-earth – “Enjoy the fruits of the earth to the max!” – is actually otherworldly, directing us not to what is, on any given day, but on what could be, in the distant future.
But still, there are those “troubles” of the day. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. That is, our Gospel message of the lily and the birds comes with the cross. The grasses today are, and tomorrow are thrown into the oven. The birds of the air, well, they do fall to the ground with the Father’s knowledge. So Jesus counsels taking up these troubles, seeing in the sadness of a fallen creation its redemption, knowing there is a loving Creator who will make everything right.
We, and the creation, don’t groan, after all, for nothing. It’s part of the cross we bear. Thank God taking up the cross is a daily task, and like Israel in the wilderness, we are responsible only for this day. As we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”