Why are you anxious about clothing? Matt 6:28
So, why do you worry about clothing? Certainly a big part of this question’s impact should be taken as being rhetorical in nature: Jesus wants to bring out the point that worrying about clothing (and, by implication, any other “concern”) is both unnecessary and unproductive. So we typically “summarize” this “passage” by categorizing it in a mental box labelled “About Worry.” And the tag we place upon it, in my experience, reads, “Don’t Do It.”
One thing to remember is that these “Gospel accounts” are not “transcripts.” Even if you believe (as I do) that everything in them is true, that doesn’t mean that everything that’s true is in them. John, in summarizing his account of the life of Jesus said so – he admitted that he cherry-picked from the volumes of things he could have written to choose elements that suited his clearly-stated purpose: to move people toward faith so that they might experience life.
So just because we don’t read about Jesus indulging a conversation on the questions he’s raising doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. So despite our thumbnail summary, Jesus really is extending us an opportunity to consider why, indeed, it is that we get worried about what to wear.
It could be that some of us worry about clothes because we really don’t have stuff to wear – we are poor, we have suffered loss, and we are thinking we may be forced to expose ourselves should we (have to) go out in public.
However, for many of us, what we are really worried about is our appearance, the picture of ourselves that we are able to present to the world. Think of the stereotypical teenager, looking into a ransacked closet full of clothes crying plaintively, “I don’t have a THING to wear!”
It’s easy for us to chuckle at that as something of a cartoon… but when we think about how often we adults obsess about how we come off to our colleagues, competitors, customers, or clients… or just the “general public,” we’re really not all that different.
The first mention of clothing in the Bible comes fairly early on. We have a good creation from a good Creator… which is then distorted by sin. The immediate result of that sin is panic, finger-pointing… and covering up. We really haven’t progressed all that far.
Might it be that we worry about clothes because we simply are anxious that someone might see us for what we truly are?
Why does Jesus point to the field flowers? Because they are “beautifully adorned” – whether they are “perfect specimens,” blooms damaged by blight or excessive sun or just scrawny because they’re not in their ideal environment, they are beautiful just as they are. They don’t need to “worry” about how they present themselves. They are gorgeous, just as God made them.
Are we able to see ourselves as being so beautiful? Can we see the beauty in one another – right now, today, just as we are in our brokenness and scrawniness and bug-bitten, windblown disarray? Or do I need to cover myself up… do I need to “clothe” myself in garments of defensiveness and blame, so that you don’t see me as I am, but, instead, get your attention deflected to an image I convey about myself? I dress myself up so that you don’t see me, but what I am not.
I’m not one of these whackos who are messing up our culture. I don’t indulge in the things that are really bad, destructive, or disgusting… not like those other people. I’m basically decent. I’m on the right side of the fence, the tracks, the wall.
This sort of socio-spiritual posturing is as common as denim in these parts. But it’s basically not any different from Adam’s fig leaf speedo. I worry about how to present myself when I “go out in public” so that people don’t see me as I really am, but instead get a nice impression of how together I am, and how beautiful it is to be me.
Jesus is asking us about why we worry, certainly. But listen closer; he is also asking us, point blank, about why we are so concerned by the image we display to others. We can be beautiful in him… or we can keep scrambling to cover up.
Jesus is well-known as a “great teacher.” But here, by merely asking a question, he touching on an issue – in the context of God’s sovereignty – that we truly need to wrestle with. We can have a similar influence when we let go of the need that we often feel that we have to tell others the right answers and ask questions that can open up reflection that leads to self discovery.
What are you worried that people might see if you don’t cover up well? And why?
As I chose pictures of flowers (to illustrate Jesus’ “lilies of the field” line), I could not resist sharing these pictures of one of the most beautiful flowers with whose beauty God has graced my life in recent times. Last month, I was privileged to volunteer with Joni and Friends at a camp in Ukraine. I was struck by the beauty of a sweet gal named Sophia. Not in spite of her “disability,” nor because of it. But because, as she shared her gift of encouragement and joy with all, caregivers and fellow-campers, she was, in no meaningful sense of the term, “disabled” at all. Just beautiful. This post is one of a series, which begins here. The series continues here.