Do Not Worry

5″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 important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28″And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If 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, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I think much of the damage we North Americans habitually do to the environment is because we don’t really listen to what Jesus is saying when he says ‘Do not worry’. I think this because I have a hard time conceiving of our culture at large dispensing with the ‘better faster cheaper’ mentality that is so definitive of America. Our demand for ‘better faster cheaper’ brings us socially and environmentally exploitive practices like industrial farming, large-scale residential construction that barely lasts 20 years, pollutive and resource-intensive energy production, and immense quantities of largely unrecycleable, non-biodegradeable plastic or foam food packaging. We have an inescapable sense that we need these things, and worry and fret about not having them.

There’s a lot of talk about sustainability these days. How can we make our way of life sustainable? Electric cars, organic produce, fair-trade coffee, hydrogen power… So maybe we can figure out a way to make our impact on the environment a little less noticeable, a little less ‘negative’. Maybe we can figure out how to have our new cars, computers, iPhones, 2000-square-foot-plus homes with four bathrooms and two occupants without really impacting the environment that much. But have we addressed the root issue? Is sustainability all about having our conveniences without all the nasty environmental side-effects, or is it about dealing with our perceived needs for convenience—Our demand for having things now?

Maybe we can make our way of life sustainable environmentally, but can we make our way of life sustainable humanly? If I am spending so much time working to pay a mortgage and utility bills and car payment and grocery bills and fuel bills and medical bills, and I simply assume that I need all those things that my earnings are paying for, am I really trusting God? If I feel like I need a four-bedroom house when all I really need is some shelter from the elements, a car when all I really need is my own two feet, am I trusting God for his provision? Am I living into what it means to be human?

What defines a ‘need’? How many of our needs are really just greatly enjoyed comforts? More telling, how many of our needs are really just comforts we so take for granted that we simply assume they must be had? And then live in fear that we will not have them…that when we don’t, we somehow won’t survive.

My truck needs power steering. I say that because if it didn’t have power steering, I’d have a bear of a time turning the wheel at low speeds. Will I die if my truck doesn’t have power steering? (Maybe, if I can’t get out of the way in time.) Will I die if I don’t have a truck at all? I suppose I sound a little silly… of course I don’t need a truck and I don’t need power steering. But I do appreciate them. I just think that sometimes it’s good to check myself. Do I really need that? Do I really appreciate what I do have and enjoy in life? I don’t need a bottle of fine Merlot accompanied by fresh bread and baby swiss cheese with a few slices of bosc pear, but boy is it good.

About ten years ago I started doing summer trips to central Europe to teach English. I was part of a team, the mantra for which was ‘BE FLEXIBLE’. It seemed so common sense but I look back and I see how important that mantra was, and not just for summer trips to teach English, where things could be so much more unpredictable than staying home. I actually think that radical flexibility, or radical trust, applies equally when things are utterly predictable. That’s when things are taken most for granted, and that’s when we don’t realize how much we are trusting in the way we think things should be when we should be trusting in God.

So what do you think you need? What is the impact of living like you need it when you really don’t?