This is not a music therapy post! So if you’re bored with my MT stuff, read on!!
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 clothes?
Matthew 6:25. We all know this verse. Actually, this verse always reminds me of Godspell and I immediately hear Chris Girardi exclaim slovenly, “Her body is more than clothes!” from when I did the show in DC six years ago. The interpretation of this passage that I’ve typically heard is from the perspective of those who do not have the means for basic needs – food, water, clothing, shelter. Don’t worry about getting food etc., God will provide. But I’ve had a thought revisiting me a lot lately that turns this interpretation upside down.
What does “worry” really translate to? King James says “take no thought” instead of “don’t worry” (as does Martin Luther’s German translation, thank you parallel Bible website and Google translate). Young’s Literal Translation says, “be not anxious.”
I feel like I’ve been nudged several times with the thought that “don’t worry” actually means “don’t fuss over” in this verse. Indeed, as I discovered 3 seconds ago after I looked up the interpretation in The Message…
If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion.
Some may dismiss this translation, that’s fine. But have you ever thought of it that way? But why would Jesus care about the people who have stuff? Wasn’t he an advocate for the poor? Isn’t it more important to assure them that God will provide their basic needs? Why would he waste his breath with telling them not to fuss over their clothes?
(To put it in context, this was part of the Sermon on the Mount, after the Beatitudes, before the “don’t judge others” and “seek first the kingdom of God.” It’s actually pretty fantastic, Matthew 5-7. I would recommend re-reading it if you haven’t lately.)
This is my answer to the devil’s advocate questions above: When I spent the summer in Haiti with people who seriously had no food, water, clothing, shelter, do you know what they fussed over? Guess what: not on what they didn’t have. They focused on taking care of others. When my thin flip flops broke on the side of a muddy mountain due to the stickiness of the mud, a Haitian offered me his shoes. It’s not that they didn’t think about needing the basics of living, they just didn’t dwell, they didn’t fuss. Jesus knew it was those who had stuff, rather than those who didn’t, who really needed His guidance. The spiritual energy was so potent in Haiti because God truly was all they had. And they were joyful about it. It made me realize how much my concern for food, clothes, and shelter was a distraction from experiencing the joy of knowing God. It may seem trivial, but think about how much time we spend on something as ubiquitous as shopping…Amazon, iTunes, commercials, vacations, homes, Pinterest, movies, groceries, Christmas presents, birthday presents…
Warning: This is where my what if question appears.
What if…we simplified our lives to the point where our pursuit of God was so strong that denying ourselves class and comfort wouldn’t be a sacrifice – it wouldn’t even be an issue? We simply wouldn’t care about those things.
Let me disclaim here that I am first and foremost writing this to myself. Although, with my current financial situation, I have not been able to indulge my materialistic inclinations lately. (And just to point out how hypocritical that statement is, my Haitian friends would be laughing at me over the fact I am alluding to not having any money.) Even so, I have a lot to learn, which is probably why God’s been placing this on my heart.
Clothes: Back to Haiti – when I was there 8 years ago, the daughter of the missionaries owned approximately 6 skirts and 10 shirts. I was impressed by the way she cleverly mixed and matched them to create different outfits for the 365 days in the year. Not as easy as the $5,000 wardrobe they give you on What Not to Wear.
Not too long ago, my sister-in-law was telling me about a book called “Seven,” in which the author chooses to simplify her life by limiting things to seven – seven meals in one month, seven outfits in one month, etc. I exclaimed to her how I had been thinking of doing a similar experiment – wearing the same outfit every Monday, same outfit every Tuesday, and so on, just to see what it would be like to wear 7 outfits and that’s it. Would it seem ridiculous to do that? Or refreshingly simple?
Shelter: I’ve been slightly obsessed over the past couple of years with the Tiny House Movement. The idea of living in less than 300 square feet is kind of appealing to me. Or at least a small apartment. I just need a kitchen, bathroom, and another room. But that’s just me. And also there would be less to clean. And heat/cool.
Food: And then there’s food. I’ll probably get a lot of eye rolls on this one. From the foodies. Sorry foodies. You can whole-heartedly disagree with me on this. After watching the documentary Forks Over Knives on Netflix last summer, I changed my diet. I had already given up beef and pork, now I don’t eat dairy either. I dare you to ask me how I get my calcium. I dare you. I eat some chicken and turkey, and I love fish. I’d rather not eat the poultry though; I try to be a pescatarian. I went about 48 hours this week with no meat, and I can’t put it any simpler: I just felt better. Anyway, this isn’t meant to be a healthy eating motivational speech. The gist is, my self-imposed restrictions have made my diet really boring. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and starches. I stopped drinking soda years ago and alcohol is too expensive, so I drink water, coffee, tea, and juice. I’ve left myself with very few choices at the store. And I couldn’t care less. But…I’ve never been a foodie, even back when I ate anything. I prefer simple home cooking to fancy restaurants. So, it’s not as big of a “sacrifice” for me. And, full disclosure, I still eat cheese. And creamer in my coffee.
This is the part where I’ll get in trouble because I’m going to ask you to consider scaling back on your limitless first-world choices and instead use your resources to help those who don’t have anything. Besides, you know you feel bad when you’re buying school supplies for the church program for needy kids at the Dollar Tree when you get your own at Target. It’s really an out-of-sight, out-of-mind scenario. Ever since I’ve drastically restricted myself on food and shopping (the shelter part is kind of a non-issue right now since I’m living with my parents during my internship), I honestly don’t even think about the stuff I’m missing. Because I’m not missing it.
What if Jesus wasn’t saying, “Don’t worry, God will provide”? What if Jesus was saying, “Don’t fuss, but live simply, so you can focus on more important things, like helping others”?
“This is all trivial,” you say. Is it? “These are just simple pleasures to make life more enriching.” Are they? Or are they truly satisfying a selfish desire for contentment? What if you look at this issue as a matter of stewardship? Our consumerism may seem to be at bay, but everything starts small. What if those of us who could stand to live more simply actually did? What kind of impact could our changes in lifestyle have on the world and how we take care of the least, last, and lost? Perhaps a much greater impact than any of us could imagine.