Late night, somewhere before 4 a.m.
Tears. Yes, tears. That’s what I find always come when God speaks so specifically to my need, especially when I least expect it. It’s hard not to get overwhelmed. After all, it’s the God of the universe Who is talking to me.
(for those of you who don’t get as teary, stick with me…)
I woke up in the middle of the night needing a “midnight” snack. I got up, fixed myself some plain yogurt with maple syrup, and sat on my couch for a bit in the dark so my eyes wouldn’t have to adjust too much. (The light of the refrigerator was about all I could take.) As thoughts of yesterday and concerns for tomorrow entered my head, I just laid them out before the Lord in brief, sleepiness inducing me to confess them quickly without much filtering. With my late-night confessional over and rumbly in my tumbly addressed, I went back to bed.
But I didn’t feel sleepy anymore.
For some reason, I felt like I should read my Bible. Can never go wrong there. I found my fingers cruising through the pages and arriving at Matthew 4. Just after the temptation of Jesus was the heading “Jesus Begins His Ministry,” which caught my eye. I started to read there and on through the Beatitudes. I read of proclamations of blessing and light shining; themes of reconciliation with ones brothers and sisters, loving one’s enemies just like our perfect heavenly Father, and practicing ones righteousness in secret before the Lord rather than for praise from people. Then, I came to an all-familiar passage about halfway through Matthew 6…
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
(Matthew 6:24, emphasis mine)
And it hit me.
I cannot pursue the things of God with all that I am and throw myself 100% into the pursuit of making a living.
Now, before you church folk (like me) say, “Well, duh” please don’t miss this. This was a big “ah ha” moment for me. For the first time, these words in Matthew 6:24 lit up like a Christmas tree before me. Why? Because this was my current reality.
Now that I am unemployed, leaving my job in response to God’s calling, I have been living this battle between serving God and wealth. God has since confirmed what He’s calling me to in this next season, and I said “yes” in response, but it’s been a process as my mind is struggling to believe what God is saying as my heart is wondering “how can these things be?”
In the past few weeks, I have been a little concerned about money… Okay, maybe more than a little. But not worried. Oh no, no. God will supply my needs, I know that. Plus, I’ve been praying, laying down my cares… with thanksgiving, naturally, because I know my Pauline epistles so I remember Philippians 4 too. But… it’s prudent of me to examine my bills and bank account, isn’t it? And consider how I’m going to make a living, yeah? To spend a few more hours than a normal 8-hour day working on projects or figuring out a business plan, right?
And though God is speaking to me about photography, well, He knows that the passion I have in it… the work I like to do… well, that doesn’t really pay the bills. He won’t mind if I use some of my other gifts to be responsible. Keep the roof over my head? I mean, He gave them to me, right? I’ll have to compromise a little to make this work. I can figure out a way to do both, merge the two. It’s like they taught us in business school… I’m diversifying. Yeah, yeah, that sounds good. Very smart and logical. Now, I can get two for the price of one! Isn’t that wisdom after all?
And on and on the reasoning goes.*
But here in red-letter text, Jesus is telling me that I can’t do both. It’s impossible. I was either going to serve God and fully engage what He was calling me to do (and let go of), or I was going to serve wealth and its demands. And they were in direct conflict. Despite even the best intentions, inevitably, it’s either one or the other. And wealth is a terrible master, exacting the highest of interest, but God is a gracious, life-giving Lord Who, as we celebrate this Easter season, gave everything for us, even His own Son.
Immediately, the tears came. I knew that the Spirit of God was talking directly to me. I had to choose. It was time to trust Him not just 98.3% or 99.9% but completely: 100% dependence on Him.
With tear-blurred eyes and sniffle-y nose, I continued reading…
For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?
(Matthew 6:25-26, emphasis mine)
Well, yes, Lord, I thought. I guess I am worth more than birds. And wow – they don’t have to work at all and they still get to eat! I can’t say that I’ve seen any birds with “will work for food” signs recently. But doesn’t it say that “those who don’t work don’t eat” after all? In Proverbs or something? (Um, yeah, about that…see my note below.)**
And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing?
Well, Lord, because I’m not really sure how this whole “income” thing is going to work. And if I’m not really making money the way I used to at my 9 to 5, isn’t it a little irresponsible to think at all of shopping (though I enjoy it on occasion)? I think my days of cute new flats and clothing are gone…
Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.
Oh… So I don’t have to worry about not being able to have cute things to wear? To look and feel pretty? You really care about that?!
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
Right. You DO love me. You care DEEPLY for me. I’m worth more than all the birds I see flitting and flying about in enjoyment, and You don’t call them “dead beats” because they don’t work – You feed them. And I’m worth more than beautiful flowers that can’t even talk or walk over to a more sunny spot but just look pretty. They don’t work for their beautiful garments either – You clothe them. And they’re all doing PRECISELY what You made them to do. Just like You’re calling me to do what You’ve made me to do… Oh Lord, I am walking in unbelief. Help me trust You!
Do not worry then, saying ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things…
And there it is. Jesus says, “Stop, Sheree. There’s no need to worry. Let go and trust Me.” Then, He continues to explain why I need not be concerned.
…for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Jesus says that if I am obedient to the Father’s will, seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, then He will freely give all these things to me. He will give me good food to eat. He will provide beautiful clothing. He will give me what I need to drink. He will help me be content in whatever circumstances (humble or abounding) He places me in. He will take care of everything, all these and more. Just like the Psalmist says, He will never forsake the righteous or leave his descendents begging bread (Psalm 37:25). I don’t need to worry about how God will provide but just remember that He will. I can count on it.
And in seeking first His Kingdom, it means everything else comes a distant second. God is basically telling me, “No. Compromise will not do. And it’s unnecessary! I want you to serve Me alone and to use this gift for My purpose. I gave it to you for a reason. I’m talking to you about it for a reason. It’s time.”
Whew. I must admit that I feel lighter now. The pressure is off of me to deliver, to come through. Yes, I need to do my part in seeking Him, listening to His voice, being obedient to His will, but that is all I need to focus on! He will take care of the rest.
I never imagined that these weeks post-full-time job would come with so much challenge and goodness from God. He is definitely stretching me and using this time to expose how dependent on myself, my ability, my strong work ethic, and my expectations I’ve become. He’s helping me let go and to see that He is my sole sufficiency. And He is indeed providing, in ways I never imagined.
I’m saying “yes” to His call again and again, laying these questions at His feet, placing my trust in the Lord, and yielding my understanding and inability to see the full picture to Him, and the clarity is coming. The peace is continuing. The faith and momentum is building and the continued assurances, like early this morning with the Spirit leading me to this confessional, keep coming.
What a timely word for me last night! That’s the Lord for you. He’s always faithfully on time. He does know what we need when we need it. And He cares enough to give it.
*Interestingly enough, Jesus went through a similar temptation in Matthew 4:1 and following. And look at how amazing He was at throwing God’s Word right back at the enemy. Hmm… We’ll have to ponder that some more another day.
**Um yes, so “unwilling” rather than lazy. Lord knows I’m not lazy, but I just haven’t a “job” yet though I’m gaining increasing direction. Anyhow, this reminds me of why it’s important to look up Scripture to make sure I’m remembering it correctly and rightly dividing the word of truth, especially when there’s a conflict or I’m unsure of exactly what is said.
I’m happy to report that the Scriptures don’t say “those who don’t work don’t eat.” If that were the case, then why would we give to the poor? Here’s what it does say, not in Proverbs, but in 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13:
…if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
So those who are not willing to work don’t eat. And in Proverbs it says the lazy and the sluggards share the same fate. It’s another story for those who are willing. And I am most definitely willing, and I’m certainly not going around being a busybody! I’m moving forward in prayerful obedience to the Lord, and particularly since this comes in a passage about keeping away from brothers who lead an unruly life (context matters!), I’m thinking that last part about not growing weary in doing good is for me. 😉