“Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)
Welcome to the halfway mark of Lent. If you’d like to create some extra space for God in your life through prayer and fasting, why not jump into a half-Lent experience? You could start today. If you’ve been on this journey already for the past 20 days, I hope you have found joy and spiritual meaning in this season of special attentiveness and focus.
Growing up, somehow I came to believe that people needed the Gospel far more than they needed food and shelter. Consequently, I criticized the “social Gospel” for its attention to physical well-being and neglect of spiritual assurance. After all, the body is temporal but the soul is eternal. Let God worry about feeding and clothing people; we’ll preach to them.
Then, in College I learned about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Long before we get to self-actualization we must address our most fundamental needs: physiological and safety needs. That made sense and made me stop and think afresh. Perhaps it’s not either this or that, but both this and that.
I could construe today’s Jesus Question as support for my earlier views. Forget about material needs, and focus instead on the soul-needs of people. But this conclusion would misconstrue Jesus’ intent.
“Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?”
Indeed it does. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus does not pit the material against the spiritual. He simply addresses our tendency to worry about everything, even the lesser things.
Since Lent ideally incorporates the idea of generosity, I wonder if today we might be part of the solution to someone else’s prayer; someone who has physical needs? What might happen if all of God’s people in all places would resolve to care for the physical needs of each other and the least of these? Can you imagine? Might we then begin to see less worry and more faith in the lives of those around us?
Some people may push back on any call to such generosity. “Let people retain their dignity by providing for themselves!” some might say. “Don’t demean someone else by suggesting that their circumstances need your help,” others will opine.
Yes, life is more than food and clothing, but perhaps most of us can only truly attend to our spiritual lives once we have addressed these most basic physical needs. After all, “What use is it to say to someone ‘Go in peace, be warm, and be filled’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body?” (James 2:16)
Today, look for someone to bless with the basic needs. Faith does that, and faith flows from that.