Streets Lined with Gold and the Path to True Peace
There was once a rich man who knew he was about to die.
He had worked hard, but he rarely thought about eternal life and Christ’s Kingdom. All he remembered from childhood religion classes was that there was fire in hell and golden streets in heaven. He had accepted the fact that he was going to die, but he didn’t like the idea of leaving behind all his hard-earned wealth. So he converted all his assets into gold bars, put them in a big bag on his bed, and lay down on top of it to die.
Soon afterwards, he breathed his last.
When he woke up, he was at the gate of Heaven, bag in hand. Saint Peter met him and with a concerned look on his face said, “Well, I see you actually managed to get here with something from earth! But unfortunately, you can’t bring in that bag.”
“Oh please, sir,” said the man. “I must have it. It means everything to me.”
“Sorry, my friend,” said Saint Peter. “If you want to keep that bag, then I’m afraid you’ll have to go to, you know, the other place. You don’t want to go there, believe me.”
“Well, I won’t part with this bag.”
“Have it your way,” returned Peter. “But before you go, would you mind if I looked in the bag to see what it is that you’re willing to trade eternal life for?”
“Sure,” said the man. “You’ll see. I could never part with this.”
Saint Peter looked in the bag and then, astonished, said to the man, “You’re willing to go to hell for… pavement?“
Today’s Gospel message (Matthew 6:24-34) is simple and easy: just as God hasn’t forgotten about you, you must not forget about God.
We forget about God when we are too worried and stressed over the things of this life, particularly, with mammon — that’s material goods, not just money. Of course, we need food, clothing, shelter, and money in order to survive. Does Jesus say we should not be concerned with those things? No. He says we should not be attached or anxious over those things.
Anxiety is a sign of two things: that we are too attached to something; and that we don’t trust God enough.
The last line in todays’s Gospel reading is key to understanding this message: “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.”
These words bring to mind a song, which actually misses the point and distorts Jesus’ message — “La, la, la, la, la, la, Live for today! And don’t worry about tomorrow!” No, Christ is not teaching trouble-free, Hakuna Matata philosophy. His message actually urges us to strive, not sit back and relax. In fact, the Greek word for “seek,” when he says, “Seek first the kingdom of God,” literally means to strive.
It is an interesting choice of words, since he uses examples of flowers and birds to illustrate his point. All living things, even the grass of the field, strive in order to flourish. Today, Jesus wants us to flourish, and so he tells us that we must strive. “Strive, first, for the kingdom of God!” he says, “Then, the rest will be given to you, besides.”
Seeking, striving, not worrying. When we worry, we only add more stress to the day we are living now by virtually living in an unhappy tomorrow that does not even exist. It may seem counterintuitive, but worrying only impedes us from accomplishing the task at hand, and this contradicts God’s will for us today.
Worrying never accomplished anything. The only thing worrying does is bring the things we lack tomorrow into the troubles of today, while today, we still have other fish to fry. That’s an obstacle to interior peace.
Let God fry tomorrow’s fish. Today, you have only one fish to fry: that’s doing God’s will. Make doing God’s will the task at hand, and see how anxiety and stress give way to the serenity and peace God truly wants for you.
[Illustration adapted from “Hot Illustrations,” copyright 2001 Youth Specialties, Inc.]