December 3, 2021 • Life for Leaders
A Note from Mark
Dear Life for Leaders Reader,
Earlier this week, I wrote a letter inviting Life for Leaders readers to support our work. If you missed that letter and would like to support Life for Leaders, please read the letter at the bottom of this devotion. Thanks very much!
Grace and Peace,
Scripture – Matthew 6:27-29 (NRSV)
And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, 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.
Jesus asked a pointed question that, if taken literally, could help us understand how to approach life with less worry. Neither you nor anyone else can add a single day to their life by worrying. In Jesus’s kingdom there is no need for worry because there is always enough.
There are questions asked in life that seem to be rhetorical but have great worth when we attempt to actually answer them. There is probably not much need to know the number of licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop, or if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest when no one is there to hear it. But occasionally there might be great reward in pausing and answering “Why not?” or “Who knows?” or “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
The all-knowing One from Nazareth gathered all types of people on a hill in Palestine and opened his mouth to describe a very specific and real kingdom in Matthew 5-7. He described a kingdom that would be the response if someone asked: “What would it look like if you took our world and turned everything on its head?” Among many characteristics of this kingdom’s citizens, anxiety and worrying would not be among them. Worry is a by-product of sin, and sin is that rabid disruption in obedience that is propelled by the feeling of scarcity. And “scarcity” is the subtle message that wakes us up at night that tells us that there will not be enough. It is the announcement to us and others that your character, experiences, resources, privilege, status, retirement, gas tank, and coffee will run out.
You can imagine (or perhaps you see in reality) the kind of spiraling that occurs when we determine that there is not enough. Nations have risen up and fallen out of the notion that there will not be enough. Large flat-screen TVs and designer mixers at rock bottom post-Thanksgiving prices have evoked some spectacular YouTube fights. Complex methods and systems of separation have come about by the notion of scarcity and worry.
As we engage in excess worry, Jesus is still asking this question: Is it possible that anyone at all can add a single day to their life by worrying? It is a simple question—one so simple that the embedded questions and answers may be missed also.
- Can you add a single day to your life at all by doing anything?
- Can you add a day to your life by worrying?
- Will worrying about someone else’s life add a single day to your life?
- If you can’t add a day, maybe you know someone who can add a day by worrying?
The answer for all of them is no. And we know enough about worrying to know that it doesn’t add days but rather it takes days away. It takes away from the quality of life. It wears away the heels of our shoes and the hair on our heads. It can wear out the people close to us and the people we work with also.
Jesus uses a question to paint a picture of a kingdom coming and a kingdom already present. There is a place characterized by the absence of worry. It begs the question: how can you have scarcity and yet no worry? What kind of kingdom is that? Those who walked with Jesus saw scarcity of fish and loaves, scarcity of time before death, scarcity of water at wells, scarcity of wine, and scarcity of strength to carry a cross. They saw clear examples of something missing. But they saw Jesus supply many things also. We call them miracles, but also they were signs of a kingdom with enough life, time, food, and staying places.
As the work week approaches, there is a potential for imbalance. We could attempt to atone for what we did not accomplish last week. We could set out to fix those around us who didn’t clear the bar. As we read the signs and times, we overcompensate for what we anticipate will be lost. We ride the wave expecting the rug to be pulled out beneath us. But Jesus’s question is timeless and his answer is clear. We cannot worry ourselves into another twenty-four hours of existence. But his grace means we don’t have to.
What are some areas in our society where you see collective worrying? What are our actions?
What do you do when you worry? What does it say about where you see or feel scarcity?
Scarcity is a reality but is it more a supply chain issue than the absence of any good at all? Find someone in need and support them with your whole self. Gather a combination of your time, resources, perspective, and cares and go serve them in some capacity. Observe how you consider or weigh your own worries while you tend to others.
Lord, I am reminded often how quickly I can paint pictures of doom and uncertainty when I feel or see that resources are depleted. We may be civilized in our worry but forgive us for our improper conclusions. Let the nature of your kingdom come on earth as it already is in heaven. And while we wait in our spirit for the day when we shall see that there is enough, teach us to live and deal with others as though it is already true. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
A Note from Mark
Dear Life for Leaders Reader,
Before we get to today’s devotion, I’d like to share a short note with you.
Today is “Giving Tuesday.” Nine years ago, several businesses and non-profit organizations decided to encourage charitable giving and other good works on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Their idea caught on. Today, thousands of non-profits will be asking people to give to support their work. The De Pree Center is one of those organizations. (If you receive our “Faith. Work. Leadership.” newsletter, you may already have seen our De Pree Center request. Today, I’m adding a specific request to Life for Leaders readers.)
Before I ask for your help, I want to be very clear about a couple of things. First, it is an honor to serve you through Life for Leaders. I regularly thank the Lord for the gift of being able to study the Bible and share what God teaches me with you. Sometimes I’m amazed that this is a central part of my job. What a blessing!
Second, I want you to know that we at the De Pree Center are glad to be able to give away Life for Leaders without charging a subscription fee. That was true when I was the Executive Director, and it remains true now that Michaela O’Donnell is in charge. We often marvel at the fact that over 750,000 times each year, someone chooses to read Life for Leaders, either by opening the email or by visiting a page on our website. We love being able to offer Life for Leaders as a gift.
We’re able to do this, as you would imagine, because of the generosity of our financial supporters. The De Pree Center makes a modest amount of money from sales of resources and experiences, but mainly we depend on the financial support of people who believe in what we’re doing and want to invest in our work. We are glad to part of Fuller Seminary, but we do not receive financial support from the seminary. (By the way, we certainly encourage you to consider supporting Fuller. The seminary and its “FULLER NEXT” vision is amazing.)
So, today I’m asking you to consider supporting the De Pree Center financially. This could be a gift designated for Life for Leaders if that’s what you’d like to do. Or it could be a gift for the De Pree Center in general. Either would be wonderful. Click on this link if you’d like to support our work.
If you’d like to make a gift to the De Pree Center, please click here. Sometimes potential donors would like to speak with someone in leadership here. That’s great. Either Michaela or I would be glad to talk with you. Just email us to set up a time to talk: email Michaela; email Mark.
Thank you for allowing me to add this note to today’s devotion. And thank you, once again, for being one of our subscribers. I am so thankful for you and for the chance to serve you through Life for Leaders and the De Pree Center.
Now, I know you have a variety of worthy charitable possibilities. If this is not the year to support us, that’s fine. Let me encourage you to be generous in the way God is leading you. That’s the main thing. I trust that God will supply what we need to continue to serve him through Life for Leaders and other De Pree Center efforts. Honestly, I have been repeatedly amazed by God’s faithfulness and kindness to us over the past six and a half years!
Grace and Peace,
P.S. – If you want to support the De Pree Center’s mission, click here.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Store Your Treasure in Heaven, Not on Earth (Matthew 6:19-34)
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DeLano J. Sheffield is the Business Resource Specialist for Goodwill of MoKan where he connects to people on the fringes, training them to reach their full potential through learning and the power of work; he also is on the frontlines of the advances of the fourth industrial revolution and coaches leaders on diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. He began his career as an architectural engineer then went on to attend seminary. In every part of his life he finds ways to infuse theology into vocation, and strengthen practical connections of faith and daily activity. DeLano lives in Kansas City, Missouri.