Read­ing Time: 9 minutes

Wor­ry­ing is car­ry­ing tomorrow’s load with today’s strength, and that means car­ry­ing two days at once. It is mov­ing into tomor­row ahead of time. Wor­ry­ing does not empty tomor­row of its sor­row, it emp­ties today of its strength.” 

The affirm­a­tion that the Bible is a com­pen­di­um of so many things con­tin­ues to be con­firmed each time we go through the shelves of this extraordin­ary and mys­ter­i­ous lib­rary. Among oth­er things, the Bible is also a power­ful and unique psy­cho­lo­gic­al encyc­lo­pae­dia. And Jesus is one of the greatest psy­cho­lo­gists that ever lived. The dis­ciples of Jesus must always dis­tin­guish them­selves from oth­ers. In this Sunday Gos­pel read­ing, one of those areas of dis­tinc­tion is on the end­less wor­ries about life. In the con­tem­por­ary soci­ety, it sounds uto­pi­an ask­ing people not to be pre­oc­cu­pied. There are so many unfa­vour­able con­di­tions that would make even the calmest per­son to be wor­ried. There are wars and ter­ror­ism in many parts of the world. Men, women, chil­dren, preg­nant women, inno­cent people that are con­stantly killed and rendered home­less; prop­erty, farms, and homes that are des­troyed; eco­nom­ic reces­sion in vari­ous nations; MMM that appears to be a for­got­ten issue; fam­ine; sick­ness; poor health facil­it­ies; poor infra­struc­tures; nat­ur­al and arti­fi­cial dis­asters. How do we expect people to be calm in the midst of these?

Do not be anxious
After mak­ing it very clear to the dis­ciples that it is impossible to serve two mas­ters con­tem­por­ar­ily, Jesus advised them “not to worry about their lives…” (Matt 6:25). Ordin­ar­ily, worry is uneas­i­ness that arises from the lack of secur­ity. The Greek verb mer­im­naō has double mean­ings, pos­it­ive and neg­at­ive. Pos­it­ively, that is, in the good sense, it means to care for, to be con­cerned about some­thing or about someone (cf. 1Cor 7:32–34; 12:25; Phil 2:20). In this case, it means show­ing con­cern for some­thing or for someone. It is feel­ing for oth­ers. In the neg­at­ive sense, it means to be wor­ried about, to be anxious, to be unduly con­cerned about some­thing (cf. Luke 10:41; 12:11.22Phil 4:6). Psy­cho­lo­gic­ally, worry is a pre­vent­ive fear that is nor­mally accom­pan­ied by a state of anxious­ness (anxi­ety), which blocks the individual/victim, and pre­vents him/her from per­ceiv­ing the real­ity of the moment. Worry obscures a person’s vis­ion. And this is the situ­ation Jesus wants to save his people from. But why are people wor­ried? Why am I anxious? Why do you worry? Why are we always rest­less? Prob­ably the con­di­tion in which Jesus asked the dis­ciples not to worry is quite dif­fer­ent from the con­tem­por­ary situ­ation. But even at that, of what use is our wor­ry­ing if it can­not change things?

God and Mammon
“No one can serve two mas­ters; for he will either hate the one and love the oth­er, or be devoted to the one and des­pise the oth­er. You can­not serve God and mam­mon” (Matt 6:24). Before ask­ing the dis­ciples not to worry, Jesus said “dia touto – for this I tell you….” This is what most Eng­lish Trans­la­tions of the Bible gen­er­ally render as “there­fore” (the NJB has “that is why I am telling you”). Yes, no human being can be a slave to two mas­ters at the same time. “Jack of all trades, mas­ter of none” is a pop­u­lar fig­ure of speech. It is gen­er­ally used in a derog­at­ory sense in ref­er­ence to a multi-skilled per­son. That is, a per­son that is com­pet­ent with many skills but none in par­tic­u­lar. The implic­a­tion of the say­ing is that by try­ing to learn many things, you lose mas­tery of any spe­cif­ic skill. The Per­son­al­ity Type Sev­en of the Enneagram is described as the Enthu­si­ast (or Epi­cure by some). Such people are cap­able of tak­ing up too many assign­ments at the same time, with the effect that none will be giv­en due atten­tion. Serving two mas­ters at the same time means sub­ject­ing one­self to stress and anxi­ety. The idea of one man one wife is to min­im­ise stress and worry.

You can­not serve both God and mam­mon (Greek: mamōnas). Mamōnas is Ara­maic term for wealth or pos­ses­sions, per­son­i­fied as mam­mon. The fool­ish decision to serve both God and mam­mon cer­tainly leads to worry. You can­not serve two mas­ters con­tem­por­ar­ily. It is impossible! It is like say­ing yes and no at the same time. The ref­er­ence to love and hate alludes to the pos­sib­il­ity of choos­ing the favour­ite if a choice has to be made. Some Trans­la­tions say you can­not serve God and money. As already indic­ated, money is a ren­der­ing of the Ara­maic mamōnas. Now, not serving God and money does not mean money is inher­ently evil. After all, it is part of cre­ation. Have you ima­gined what life would have been without money to take care of your basic needs? Even wor­ship requires money. The point is that since money is often mis­used and since many people are will­ing to do any­thing to make it, the pur­suit of money takes the place of God. Hence, Paul describes the love of money as the root of evil (cf. 1Tim 6:9–10). Such love can­not be asso­ci­ated with God. Between God and money/riches, God must come first. To do the con­trary is to expose one­self to end­less pre­oc­cu­pa­tion and restlessness.

Fur­ther­more, dis­tinc­tion must be made between a slave and an employ­ee. Fol­low­ing its ori­gin­al form, a slave is a per­son com­pletely owned by anoth­er per­son. In this sense, the per­son who owns the oth­er is usu­ally named ‘mas­ter.’ On the oth­er hand, an employ­ee is a work­er who is paid to per­form a par­tic­u­lar occu­pa­tion. Gran­ted there are some employ­ers who treat their employ­ees as slaves, the two remain dis­tinct. While an employ­ee per­forms a spe­cif­ic work, a slave does every work. While an employ­ee has his or her rights and respons­ib­il­it­ies, a slave has only duties to do and without ques­tion­ing. While an employ­ee can keep two dif­fer­ent jobs at the same time, a slave is an exclus­ive prop­erty of his or her mas­ter. In our con­text, a believ­er is an exclus­ive prop­erty of God, he or she can­not seek for job anoth­er job else­where. There­fore, he or she can­not be an exclus­ive prop­erty of God and of mam­mon at the same time. Doing so would make him or her an employ­ee. Chris­ti­ans are slaves not employ­ees. Their loy­al­ties to God can neither be divided nor shared with any oth­er being or thing. Their mas­ter is God and God alone and always.

A Call to Laziness?
Jesus’ advice not to worry about our lives and about tomor­row, what we are to wear, what we are to eat, a house to shel­ter ourselves, should not be taken lit­er­ally. To do so would be fool­ish­ness. Here again, wis­dom is indis­pens­able. Neither these advices nor the psalmist’s affirm­a­tion that the Lord is my shep­herd (cf. Ps 23) should be taken on the super­fi­cial level. They are not invit­a­tions and encour­age­ment to lazi­ness and lack of adequate effort (cf. 2Thess 3:6–12). On the con­trary, such advice is a call to avoid dis­trac­tions and stay focused. It is a call to have spe­cif­ic plan for each day, week, month, and/or year. It is a cla­ri­fic­a­tion that we must seek the king­dom of God and right­eous­ness first, then oth­er things will be added to us (cf. Matt 6:33). As Mat­thew had already poin­ted out, God our Fath­er knows our vari­ous needs (cf. Matt 6:8). No one who does so goes empty handed (cf. Luke 18:28–30). Jesus wants his dis­ciples to dis­cov­er the logic of life and keep to it. We must plan our lives and days very well. A dis­ordered way of liv­ing is an open invit­a­tion to pre­oc­cu­pa­tion. Jesus wants us to imbibe the prin­ciple of “first things first.”

Men of Little Faith
“You of little faith” (Greek: oli­gop­is­toi). Can faith be meas­ured? What does the adject­ive little stand for? Jesus rebuked and keeps rebuk­ing the dis­ciples for their little faith. If God takes care of the birds, the lilies and the wild­flowers, yet, the dis­ciples worry about what to eat, what to drink, and what to wear, then, they lack faith in God. And rightly did Jesus describe them (and us) as men of little faith. Little faith implies low in qual­ity, the scarcity of the dis­ciples’ capa­city to receive God’s gift of faith. We do not pro­duce faith. Instead, God pro­duces it and gives it to us freely (cf. Eph 2:8; Rom 12:3). Our inab­il­ity to receive it and live by it is described by Jesus as oli­gop­is­tos – little faith. We are guilty of little faith when we doubt and worry that God who takes care of the birds in the sky will not care for our needs even more. We are guilty of little faith whenev­er we think or con­clude that God is delay­ing in heark­en­ing to our pleas. We are guilty of oli­gop­is­tos each time we seek God because we are in need. We are guilty of oli­gop­is­tos when we wor­ship God because we have noth­ing doing. There­fore, you of little faith means: Do you not believe I can take care of you more than I do for the birds in the sky? Oli­gop­is­tos implies lack of trust in God. If you do not believe or trust someone, that per­son can nev­er please you no mat­ter what he or she does. In the same way, without faith, it is just impossible for any­one to please God (cf. Heb 11:6). With oli­gop­is­tos (little faith), how can you believe God will take care of your needs more than the birds of the air? Oli­gop­is­tos is Satan (obstacle) and must stay behind.

As stated in the ‘Intro­duc­tion’, in our con­tem­por­ary world, it is not very easy to tell people not to worry because there are too many reas­ons to do so. People are wor­ried because of insec­ur­ity. And no mat­ter how much you try, you can­not always avoid it. People are wor­ried because of the amount of reck­less­ness and god­less­ness exhib­ited espe­cially by those in author­ity, both civil and reli­gious. People are wor­ried because as the psalm­ist com­plained, no one does good again, hence no one is to be trus­ted (cf. Ps 14:3). How can people not be wor­ried when god­less and beastly groups called Boko Haram go about killing people and inno­cent (school) chil­dren in Niger­ia? How do you tell those in the Middle East and Syr­ia to be calm when all they hear all day is the sound of bombs and gun­shots? Is it pos­sible for the European coun­tries to remain calm when ter­ror­ists threaten their lives on daily basis? How do you tell people not to be wor­ried when those in the gov­ern­ment have no min­im­al interest in the well-being of the cit­izens? How do you tell the cit­izens of most of the Afric­an nations not to be wor­ried when their God-giv­en nat­ur­al resources have become motives of ter­rible wars, sick­nesses and death? And this is due to the selfish­ness and greed those who rule them instead of lead­ing them. How can the youth not be wor­ried when their future is vague? Just tell me how the par­ents of little and under­age girls should stay calm when their daugh­ters are exposed to con­tinu­ous arrog­ance and anim­al­ist­ic tend­en­cies of some adults? With the fear of being attacked, how can you be calm or even sleep with relaxed mind? Wait a minute! Do you mean to tell me you are not wor­ried when the pos­sib­il­ity of remain­ing unem­ployed after so many years is before you? You want me to believe you are not wor­ried when you can no longer con­fide in your best friend, your own blood broth­er and sis­ter, your chil­dren, your par­ents, your hus­band or wife, your reli­gious lead­ers, and even the per­son wor­ship­ping with you under the same roof? You do not have the money to take your sick child to the hos­pit­al or even to take care of your own health, and you expect me to believe you are not wor­ried? It is the right of every per­son to have a place called home. Now, if you do not have one and there is no pos­sib­il­ity of hav­ing your own house, how can people pre­tend you get rid of worry? Due to these and oth­er sim­il­ar situ­ations, some­times, we can­not but show our oli­gop­is­tos – little faith. And we pray God will not be too angry with us. Cer­tainly, the con­text in which Jesus gave this advice is quite dif­fer­ent from ours. But this is not an excuse not to put his words into prac­tice. Let us try our best since it is still the same God who nev­er changes. He will make our wor­ries his. Next page

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