“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, and yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6:28-29, English Standard Version).
Jesus tells us it is the Gentiles who fuss over what to eat, drink, and wear. As we might put it now, it is Olympians, especially those devoted to Bacchus, false god of consumption, who place primary value on these things.
Bacchus encourages us to shop till we drop. The bumper sticker claiming, “The one who dies with the most toys wins,” was on a large recreational vehicle driven by one of his loyal—and enthusiastic—followers.
Appealing to the little heart of darkness in each of us, Bacchus grants us great if fleeting happiness, a deep if ephemeral satisfaction, if we understand the meaning of life in his terms. Yes, we had a bad day, but we really can forget it all, at least temporarily, if we dine out on comfort food and then go shopping at the mall. Or enjoy an extra glass of wine and watch a movie. Or splurge and buy that expensive handbag.
I’m not proposing conformity to a moral code that forbids comfort food, shopping, wine, movies, and handbags as it encourages us to condemn anyone who indulges in such things. It’s a question of the meaning of life. What helps us to regard ourselves, and to be seen by others, as people who matter? What does it take to feel fulfilled? What saves us from despair? What distracts us from our inner demons? Helps us to overcome them?
As always, it’s a question of relationship. Bacchus, working diligently through both all the advertising in world and our own hearts of darkness, would have us understand the meaning of our lives, and him as the ultimate source of our salvation, in terms of consumption.
Jesus understands life differently. Consequently, if we choose to relate to him and to his heavenly father (and ours), we end up thinking, desiring, feeling, speaking, acting, and organizing ourselves in ways which differ from the ways of Bacchus, his disciples, and our world. We start practicing a mischievous Christian way of living.
To begin with, we live knowing that Abba, the eternal father of Jesus by nature and ours by grace, is aware of all our physical and material needs (6:32). Bacchus, in contrast, would have us anxiously panting after the illusory needs he deceives us into imagining we must satisfy. And he would have us satisfy them in ways that harm our vitality and that of others and God’s good creation.
Second, as mischievous witnesses to Abba, we live knowing that Abba lavishly showers his merciful care on us even more than on birds and flowers who don’t even work but still have their needs met by him. Bacchus, in contrast, would have us worrying that only the fittest survive and believing that God only helps those who help themselves.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (6:33, ESV).
Third, we know that the best way of meeting our true needs is not to focus on them as Bacchus would have us do. Instead, it is to focus on living in a way which glorifies Abba, nurtures and protects other human beings, cares for all creation, and helps us to become whole persons. By enabling us to do that, Abba is able to meet even our needs for food, drink, and clothing.
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