The Rising Price of Orange Juice
He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts...(Mark 6:8)
Have you been feeling a little anxious when you go to the grocery store or the gas station? I know my grocery bill has gone up and it seems like not as many of the items I buy go on sale anymore. I have even started obsessing about the "mpg" (miles per gallon) readout in my car's message center. "How did I lose two-tenths of a mile per gallon yesterday? I better slow down to get those back!" I am just making that up. Maybe.
When prices go up and income remains the same money gets tighter. When money gets tighter people get anxious. It is a tale as old as time.
The average church goer doesn't like to hear this, but Jesus had A LOT to say about money. He talked about it all the time - treasures in heaven vs. treasure on earth, you cannot serve both God and mammon, the widow's mite, render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, where your treasure is there your heart will be also, and so on. By contrast, as progressive preachers such as myself like to point out, Jesus said NOTHING about abortion, homosexuality, or which political party is the most God-fearing. That's right. Nothing.
Why do you suppose money/wealth/possessions was one of, if not THE, most important topic for Jesus?
I believe that anxiety we are feeling at the grocery store has something to do with it.
There is no doubt we need money to survive. We need certain things, possessions - shelter, food, clothing, transportation, healthcare. Even those who forswear money and possessions rely on the money and possessions of others to get by. And because it is so important to our very survival, it can very easily become THE MOST IMPORTANT thing in our lives. Before you know it, our life revolves around our wealth and possessions. And what is wrong with that? I think you already know, but just in case let me remind you: our lives are supposed to be centered on God.
Jesus' teachings about money/wealth/possessions boils down to a teaching about priorities, and trust, and putting first things first. When he sent out his disciples, two by two, with no bread, no bag, no money in their belts, he was telling them they had to rely on and trust God for their mission to work. If I were one of them, I know I would have been a little anxious.
I won't tell you not to be anxious as you watch those numbers climb on the gas pump. But I will tell you, as your blood pressure rises, to remember that God is watching over you and all the rest of creation. God's Spirit is with you, and sometimes that Spirit can have a calming effect and ease our worry. Let us keep our lives centered on God first of all.
And if we are lucky, maybe orange juice will be on sale this week.