Our reading follows hot on the heals of Jesus’ telling of the parable of the rich fool. It is told in response to a request for Jesus to sort out a family inheritance dispute. Jesus refuses, but adds his own assessment. The stem of this dispute is greed: ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ (12:15).
Jesus goes on to name as a ‘fool’, the man who stored treasure, but was not ‘rich towards God’.
The reading we have just heard appears to be a private continuation of this conversation with the twelve. Jesus begins with an explicit link between what he has just said and what is to come: ‘Therefore, I tell you…’
And once again Jesus addresses the unnamed: ‘worry’.
Jesus’ advice is not easily followed: ‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing.’ It would seem – not that we needed to be told – that worry takes from God’s invitation to live.
Jesus goes on to point to the natural world. The birds, lilies, and grass have something to teach us. They are fed by God, dressed like kings, here today and gone tomorrow.
It is a simple question Jesus poses: How much more will he (God) clothe you – you (literally) littlefaiths?
Food, clothes, and worry, according to Jesus, belong to the realm of the gentiles: ‘…the nations of the world’. Yes, every power and dominion on earth would seem to be oriented towards storing and keeping – a striving for more.
No wonder there is never enough.
We, however, belong to another kingdom. Our citizenship is beyond mere nationalism. Here we are free to strive – not for food and clothes – but for God.
None of this is to suggest that food and clothing are not basic needs. Even God knows these are genuine. In fact God knows this so well that God daringly offers to prove his grace and presence through their provision: ‘…and these things will be given to you as well.’
Yes, ‘as well’. It would seem that prioritising God’s kingdom above all else ensures that life is lived in abundance – God and enough.
But the reverse is not true. Prioritising and clinging to things does not translate into enough and God. At best it translates into the loneliness and ultimate purposelessness of merely enough.