The Bible is the inspired Word of God. As such, every single word is authored by God and thus has meaning for our lives. The Bible is meant to change us, to make us more like Christ. We don’t conform the Bible to our lives, we conform our lives to the Bible.
However, even if we believe this with all our hearts, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. Sometimes there will be passages that seem to float off the page and speak directly to our hearts. But other times there are passages that challenge us, and if we are being honest with ourselves, don’t really add up. In those cases, we have to wrestle with the Scriptures.
Do Not Be Anxious
This past Sunday’s TLM Gospel passage is one such passage for me. It’s a passage I’ve struggled with since I first engaged it back in high school. The difficult part for me are these words from our Lord: “do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on” (Mt. 6:25). Christ then goes on to explain that God takes care of the birds and the lilies of the field, so of course He’ll take care of you too.
This is a problematic passage for me because I’m a control freak. I like to plan out the future as much as possible, and I typically have at least a low level of anxiety about the future at all times. I’ve learned to manage it over the years, but it never goes away.
But here’s the thing: I’ve found that my anxiety has helped me take my responsibilities as a husband and father seriously. My God-given role as provider for my family obligates me to plan for the future on some level, and I do that because I’m anxious about it. So when Christ tells me to “not be anxious about your life,” my first thought it, “but what about being anxious about my wife or my children’s lives? Is that okay?” I’m not trying to be cheeky; I’m trying to understand Our Lord’s words in the context of my state of life.
And I have another problem with this passage, truth be told. What about all the people throughout history who have not had enough food or clothing for today, much less tomorrow? I’m not talking about “poor” people with big-screen TVs, or even those who have become destitute due to their own life choices. I mean the truly destitute, particularly in foreign lands, who have nothing. They did nothing wrong, other than be born in the wrong place at the wrong time. It seems too easy to just tell them, “Don’t be anxious! God will take care of you like He does the birds and the lilies!”
Whining Like a Child
Now, know all the standard interpretations: Christ isn’t condemning prudent planning, Original Sin impacts the world in many dire ways, and so forth. But none of these standard interpretations really work for me. Perhaps I’m being too pig-headed, or just too dense, but I have a hard time reconciling Our Lord’s words with reality.
Yet, in the end, that’s exactly what I’m called to do. I know the Lord is right in what he says. I know we need to trust in God far more radically than my control freak nature wants to. So I have to accept that my protestations of this difficult passage are simply the whinings of a child who is told to do something he doesn’t like.
I will continue to wrestle with the passage, likely for the rest of my life, but wrestling is not rejecting. It’s understanding that we don’t always understand. After all, if every verse in the Bible were easy to understand, what purpose would it serve?