Friday, October 18, 2013
Good intentions, aspirational ideas, holy motives cannot be translated into real progress for the common good or the advancement of God's Kingdom without a plan.
Whether one is a lawyer or law student working for social justice, a minister promoting a new apostolate, a social worker empowering the impoverished, an educator enlightening a class, or, yes, an elected member of the polity advancing a political agenda, one must have a plan. And that plan must include a realistic assessment of the prospects for success and how the plan will come not only to a climax but to a conclusion.
In Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his followers:
'That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing!
26 Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are?
27 Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life?
28 And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin;
29 yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of these.
30 Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith?
31 So do not worry; do not say, "What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?"
32 It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all.
33 Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God's saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well.
34 So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.'
Some over the ages have miscontrued this passage to mean that good intentions and prayerful resolve are all that a follower of Christ needs for any venture. Evangelicals are wont to describe a person with that attitude as "so Heavenly minded that he is of no earthly good."
Jesus was speaking about inward-focused worry, that is, selfish pursuits of material things and especially about how those who become obsessed with these things are then torn by anxiety for the future. Worry, particularly for selfish reasons, may be a sin. But planning remains a must. Keeping our focus on God and recognizing that all else must be subordinated to God’s Kingdom is not an invitation to ignore the future consequences of our actions in this life.
As the nineteenth century Anglican Bishop of Liverpool, J. C. Ryle explains this passage, “Prudent provision for the future is right; wearing, corroding, self-tormenting anxiety is wrong.”Let us pray that “prudent provision for the future” will become the watchword for our leaders, in government as well as in ministry.