Reading for Monday, June 18: Matthew 6
Upon careful reading, you realize the assumptions Jesus makes in the Sermon on the Mount. “When you give to the needy,” (v2); “when you pray,” (v5); “when you fast,” (v16). Jesus assumes that His followers are a disciplined people, a people committed to generosity, prayer, and fasting. These disciplines help us to treasure the proper things in life. Rather than laying up treasure on earth, these practices show us the way to real life — a counter-cultural resolution to give away rather than hoard, to pray rather than plan, to fast rather than consume.
I just read an article that said North America, despite being home to less than 10% of the world’s population, accounts for one-third of the world populations’ body weight. Quite literally, we are consuming ourselves to death. I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to fasting, but I’ve practiced it enough to appreciate the lessons we learn when we fast. We learn how food is interwoven into so many different parts of our day. We learn how privileged we are that we assume we should have access to meat 14 or even 21 times a week. We experience solidarity with our fellow citizens of the planet, many of whom live on less than $2 a day. Most importantly, we learn how faithful God is to supply our needs, even as we hunger physically. Fasting is, in my opinion, a severely under-utilized spiritual resource in our day and age.
Generosity functions in much the same way. Again, I’m still growing here, but recently I learned the liberating trust that comes through giving. I decided a few months ago to try and give away about 40% of my clothing. I was convicted that I didn’t need all the clothes I had in my closet and that these resources would be better used if they were deployed among the poor and the needy. Since I gave them away, I haven’t missed a single article of clothing. In fact, I can hardly even remember what they looked like in my closet. Again, I’m hardly a spiritual giant when it comes to this, but what I’m saying is this: Jesus is right! There is a treasure that is ours in giving, a treasure that runs deeper than silver and gold. God intends for us to experience the liberating renunciation of possessions that we might take up the Kingdom of God as our Ultimate Possession. Or, more precisely, that God’s Kingdom might possess us. This is the mystery of the Kingdom that Jesus alludes to in the Sermon on the Mount.
All of this is expressed so beautifully in the Lord’s Prayer. We pray for the coming Kingdom, that God’s reign would be manifest on earth just as surely as it is in heaven. We hasten the day of its arrival by trusting in God’s provision, seeking daily the bread (manna) that only He provides. And as we consume, partaking of the bounty of heaven, we also dispense forgiveness to those who are in need.
“For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen.”