Considering the Lilies of the Field
CHRIST & NEIGHBOR
I was speaking to a parish group recently, mostly devout workingclass women, and I was pushing the notion (contained in my last column) that if you are a complete Samaritan, you should be concerned, not simply to help the poor man who fell among thieves, but to do something more long-range, more political, about the prevalence of thieves on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.
These were not hostile conservatives, not at all. In fact, they were inclined, mostly, to be sympathetic. But even so, I felt suddenly like a man pushing a heavy load uphill. The word “political” was clearly jarring, like the sound of a dirty word in church. So deeply is the notion ingrained in us that religion is only a Sunday thing, only a personal relationship with God, only a thing that concerns the neighbor in a very personal way.
And there are, of course, passages in Scripture that seem to support this view. There is Jesus’ consistent refusal to go along with the Zealots among his followers who hoped that his mission was to throw out the Romans and restore the kingdom to Israel. This refusal is most clearly expressed in his statement to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn. 18:36).
There is also the beautiful passage about the lilies of the field contained in the sixth chapter of Matthew and the twelfth chapter of Luke. I like the older translation:
Take no thought for the morrow, what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink, or wherewithal ye shall be clothed, for after all these things do the heathen seek. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.
Few passages would seem less favorable to economic planning.
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