May 9, 2017
Take No Thought
Some of the most controversial advice given by Jesus was from the Sermon on the Mount:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
“Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matt 6:19-34
Like all the rest of the words of Jesus these are beautifully said and sound very pleasant. But nodding one’s head in approval of their beauty and trying to incorporate them into life are two different things.
If one were to literally apply them in the here and now what would he do?
It sounds like if you want to serve God rather than mammon (earthly treasure) that you could care less about earning a living. If you own a business perhaps you should cease putting attention on it and read the scriptures, pray and meditate instead.
If you have a job that forces you to work for money perhaps you should quit and become a wandering preacher.
In addition, he tells us to “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.”
If one takes this literally he would not have any savings account, keep any surplus cash, gold or silver and would not be concerned about having any extra food storage, backup power, fuel or supplies of any kind.
There are two types of people who seemed to have literally followed this advice.
The first are the freeloaders. These are irresponsible people who feel the world owes them a living and either will not or cannot keep a job. Friends, family and strangers feel sorry for them and help them out and somehow they seem to survive, yet remain carefree.
These freeloaders are violating the command of the scriptures which say:
“this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” II Thess 3:10
Yes, this group cares not for tomorrow and lets tomorrow take care of itself but on the back of others who do care and do work hard to make sure there is enough to go around.
The second group are spiritual teachers who live on the donations of others so they can devote full time to their work. Jesus himself was in this category. He may have done some carpentry work when younger, but when on his mission he was supported by others who did have regular jobs. The Gospels indicate that there was no shortage of people willing to invite him for dinner.
Buddha, we are told only had one set of clothes and a rice bowl to his name. When hungry he went from place to place teaching and students gave him enough rice to survive.
When Buddha was seeking for enlightenment he came across Hindus who took this teaching further in that they had no clothes at all and lived naked in the forest.
All of Jesus’ disciples wore clothes so he obviously didn’t expect them to go that far.
Today, numerous clergy and missionaries have their needs taken care of by donations so they can concentrate on God rather than mammon, but how about the rest of us? Are we supposed to take no thought of our needs and live on what just comes our way as we contemplate God?
It almost sounds that way. On the other hand, Jesus never criticized or condemned ordinary people for working hard to earn a living. Peter James, John and Andrew were fishermen and Jesus even helped them catch fish on one occasion. Matthew was a tax collector and we assume the others had some kind of gainful employment before they met Jesus.
The famous apostle Paul didn’t rely on donations of others but was a tentmaker by trade and not only supported himself, but helped others.
Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy merchant who donated the tomb for Jesus and was considered a righteous man.
Most of the people written about in the Old Testament had jobs of some kind and did what they could take make sure they had enough for tomorrow.
The most famous example was Joseph who was sold into Egypt. He had a revelation from God that there Egypt needed to store up seven years supply of food to prepare for the times ahead. If Joseph had not done his part in preparing for the future then Egypt would have been devastated and many would have starved.
Taking all this into consideration one then wonders exactly how we are to interpret the words of Jesus for they seem quite impractical for us in the here and now who need to take care of tomorrow.
The first question to ask is this. Is it possible the compiler of the Gospel put this in a different context than Jesus intended? There is some evidence of this in the Book of Mormon that has Jesus repeating the Sermon on the Mount to the Nephites on the American continent, but with subtle changes. The account says:
“And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked upon the twelve whom he had chosen, and said unto them: Remember the words which I have spoken. For behold, ye are they whom I have chosen to minister unto this people. Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” 3 Nephi 13:25
So in this situation the message was to the twelve apostles, not to the people as a whole. He wanted his ministers to not worry about making money, but to concentrate on teaching the people. Because the people were aware of this they made sure that these servants were taken care of.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where the material needs for most of us are not supplied unless we do place significant attention on the material side. On the other hand, this situation is changing. As society and technology evolves we will eventually reach a state where we all will have our basic needs taken care of and we will be able to have plenty of time to focus on spiritual or creative endeavors.
Until that time, unless we have an inheritance, large savings or someone to take care of us we will have to place some attention on the needs of tomorrow, just as ancient Joseph did.
Copyright by J J Dewey
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