February 28, 2020
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
In today’s reading from Matthew 6, Jesus continues to challenge us to see ourselves as being dearly loved and well provided for. He challenges us to not worry about what we need to eat or drink or wear. How much time do you spend worrying about what you need? Some of us do worry about fresh water or sufficient food. Many more of us worry about loan payments, medical bills, meaningful relationships, or a rewarding career. It can be tempting to let our mental landscape fill up with these concerns. Yet Jesus says these are exactly the types of things that our heavenly Father knows we need and promises to provide. At the same time, it’s not as if we can ignore the bills in the mail, a dead end job, or a difficult relationship. If we can’t ignore them and shouldn’t worry about them, what are we supposed to do instead? Verse 33 gives us the answer. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
If you are like me, the next question is, how do I seek God’s kingdom? What does that look like, practically? How do I know if I’m doing it right? In an attempt to answer those very real questions, each Friday between now and Easter, we are going to use our pocket devotions to focus on an aspect of Lent. We will cover everything from ancient practices to helpful habits—all of which can give us tools to seek God’s kingdom and righteousness.
One of the main ways that christians celebrate Lent is through fasting. Often people fast from a certain type of food (meat, sugar, coffee) but we can fast from activities as well (TV, social media, cursing). In light of the verses from today, I’d like to challenge you to approach fasting from a slightly different place. Start by reflecting on what causes you to worry. What are your thoughts filled with? And how are you trying, in your own power, to ease those fears on a daily basis? Does the stress of your job motivate you to bring work home or check your work email obsessively? Does your worry about “keeping up with Joneses” have you checking instagram or facebook multiple times every day? Maybe you are compulsively numbing out with alcohol, weed, or Netflix.
You can fast from any and all of those things during Lent. Here’s how fasting puts us in the mindset of seeking God. First, self discipline is a muscle that gets stronger with use and practice. Studies have shown that self discipline bleeds across other areas of our lives. So by fasting, you might actually see an improvement in things like regular Bible study or prayer. Second, fasting removes our ability to distract ourselves from our anxiety. As we open up that space in our lives, we can direct our worry towards God instead. So every time you have the urge to reach for your phone, you can choose to turn your thoughts towards God. If you are fasting from food, the hunger pangs or desire to overindulge can remind you that God is a good and generous provider. If you have areas of persistent worry, find a way to fast from your unhealthy coping strategies. If fasting for 40 days seems like too much right now, try just picking a day or two to fast. See how God moves into your worry, bringing clarity and hope.