Today’s Chocolate: Vosges Burnt Caramel Dulce de Leche
Today’s Passage: Matthew 6
We are not good people, and we want to believe that we are good people more badly than we want to be good people.
And Jesus knows it. Truth be told, I feel like without Jesus’ teaching here, Christianity becomes for all intents and purposes just another way for human beings to use rules to convince themselves they’re not as bad as they actually are. Right out the gate, he preaches, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (1). Christopher Hitchens may paint with too broad a brush, but there really is a form of religion that poisons everything. When you’re doing “good” so that other people will think you’re a “good” person, your own perverse self-importance is contaminating your relationships with God and other humans.
Doing good isn’t about earning points or making yourself better. It’s about joining God in what he’s up to, collaborating with him in renewing the universe according to his will. It’s about making the world a better place, loving God, getting involved in setting things right.
And what’s religion without forgiveness? It’s a slave-driver’s whip. So Jesus teaches that we should make forgiveness a cornerstone of our religious practices, encouraging us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (12). People who forgive understand they’re not much better than the next guy, if that. And if we receive God’s gift of forgiveness but keep it to ourselves, we’re missing the point. It’s a gift we’re supposed to share by forgiving those who wrong us. God doesn’t want us living our lives holding the gun of unpaid debts to each other’s heads.
In the latter portion of this chapter, Jesus concerns himself with anxiety over material possessions, and you hardly need to be religious in order to fall into the comfort trap. We pursue material objects that we think will give us pleasure and protect us from pain; we get so worked up about chasing comfort. But Jesus reveals that the secret of contentment is an insanely low bar, instructing us, “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (25). He points to nature for our example: the flora and fauna of the world don’t worry about possessions, as God takes care of them just fine. According to Jesus, if we’ve got a shirt on our backs and food for the day, then anything else is just gravy. Which sounds insane, but just imagine how stress-free and happy you’d be if a slice of bread and a pair of pants got you as hype as a 2018 Mazda Miata.
I know I keep saying it, but I need this teaching. Without Jesus Christ, I am a tight-muscled stress bucket, and I need him to breathe life into my religion every single day.