Earthly Thorns That Trouble Us
Day 2- The Thorn of Finances
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25-33, ESV)
I’ll be totally upfront with you—this is an article I don’t want to write at all. It feels—well, I don’t really know how to articulate it—hypocritical? This is another thorn that has yet to really afflict me. Again, it absolutely could happen, but it hasn’t yet. At my rapidly ripening age, I’ve never truly encountered harsh financial difficulties. The issues I’ve personally encountered have been more of the “a little too obsessed with saving” or “I wish I could buy that” variety. So for me to write an article about financial struggles, never having seriously faced them, is hard to make sense of. But still, as I read the words of Jesus in Matthew 6, they are words that make me squirm. Why? Because they expose my own lack of dependence on God when it comes to financial matters.
In thinking of that term “thorn,” let’s go back to the thorn bush. Once you’re stuck, the more you squirm the more stuck you get. Financial problems can be like that too, leading to a downward spiral. I don’t want to get too far into the weeds on this, but there are many ways that can happen. There is the crushing pit of debt. You borrow money to buy something. You then realize you borrowed too much, and you can’t adequately cover the debt payment. So you borrow more money. And then more money. Eventually, you’re in over your head with no way out. You can get burned with a 5-year ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage). It’s cheaper when you initially take out the loan, but the interest rate resets at the end of 5 years. In our present climate, that can really hurt. Say you borrowed $200,000 at 3%, and then the rate goes up to 7% at the end of the 5 years. By the way, that’s exactly what has happened and will continue to happen for the next 2-3 years. Sadly, your monthly mortgage payment would increase by almost $500! Now what? Some decisions we make only make matters worse.
Back to Matthew 6: Look at how many times Jesus uses the word “anxious” in this passage. He said I shouldn’t be anxious about life’s financial matters, about providing clothing, or about providing food. But isn’t that exactly what many of us feel when it comes to financial matters—anxiety? Budgets, taxes, planning, bills… yuck! Who wants to think about any of that? Even though we cannot ignore these things, Jesus tells us not to be anxious about any of it. Unless you’re a billionaire, that isn’t so easy! I know I’m not alone when, in the months of December and January, all the Christmas shopping credit card bills come in. The blood pressure definitely ticks up a notch! It can lead the mind to anxious places. What if I lose my job and have to figure out how to pay my bills? Do I have any cushion in place for unexpected expenses (car repairs, healthcare, etc.)? Anxious, anxious, ANXIOUS! But Jesus says I shouldn’t be.
Why? No matter what our financial situation is, the passage above centers on one unmistakable truth: the goodness of God. If He thinks enough of birds, lilies, and grass to provide for them, how much more will He provide for those that love Him? Make no mistake, though; God is not our ATM. We must make wise financial decisions and can’t expect God to bail us out when we don’t. The overall theme in Matthew 6, though, relates to our focus. Instead of focusing too much on finances, He tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Therein lies the problem for many of us. As the moments of anxiety grip me on this topic, it leads me to understand how little I’m seeking Him before those moments. When I am in sync with Him, it’ll make all the difference in the world.
Earthly Thorns That Trouble Us