Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God.’
He said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? If then you are not able to do so small a thing as that, why do you worry about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
“What’s the use of worrying? It never was worthwhile” Words from the song that won first prize in the competition for the best morale-building song in WW1, and written by George Powell, a Welsh pacifist and conscientious objector! We may assume that the author knew today’s Gospel passage just as we may also assume that many who sang the song lustily wanted to suppress many worries during that terrible war. So many people seem to have more than enough reasons to be anxious – Covid, the international situation, inflation, health and waiting lists, relationships for example, perhaps you can add your own – so that it can seem insensitive to tell someone not to worry. But should we not draw a distinction between “worrying” and “showing concern” about people and issues. Worrying can be self-centred, inward looking and corrosive, stopping us from moving on – “It never was worthwhile.” The rich landowner was worried about how he could store and protect his abundance: he should have shown concern for the poor and needy (possibly his own exploited tenants) and shared his bounty. It is far better to be equally alert to serious issues and then show concern about what can be done to make things better – and not just what others can do, but what we ourselves can do. Of course, there are major issues which as an individual we can never put right, but that should never be a reason to do nothing: “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” George Powell advised that people should “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, and Smile, Smile, Smile.” Yes, but is that enough? Should we not also do what we can to help others find for themselves a way through such troubles, striving for God’s kingdom, following in the Way of Jesus? Surely a worthwhile Lenten discipline.
Understanding God, when we feel hard-pressed by many concerns help us, we pray, not to turn in on ourselves with worry but rather turn to you to guide us so that we can do something to improve matters even if we cannot solve all problems! In the name and power of our Saviour, Jesus Christ: Amen.
The Rev’d Julian Macro, retired Minister, member of Verwood URC