presidents' day

There they are again, those grey, presidential eyes calmly fixed on something behind me, just over my right shoulder.  Jackson, Lincoln, Washington.  Turn them over, and the greys give way to various scenes of green:  the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the almost mystical word, “ONE” - but above them all floats the slogan they hold in common:  “In God We Trust.”

Do we?  It’s a nice question to ask, especially with a greenback in hand.  Just before his lovely remarks on the futility of worry (“consider the lilies of the field, how they grow”), Jesus sets the stage with a stark opposition:  “You cannot serve both God and mammon (wealth).”

It’s not that money itself is the problem.  The problem comes when we cling to it, worry about it, hoard it, organize our lives around it, and in that sense “serve” it.  The problem, in other words, is a money-centered way of life.

And sure enough, considering the way many of us allocate our time and energy, a naive observer might be forgiven for concluding that our lives, rich and poor alike, do revolve around money – and so that we live caught up in a sort of indentured servitude.  In that sense, another slogan floats over our days:  “In Mammon We Trust.”

We cannot, Jesus insists, have it both ways.  There’s a spiritual choice at stake here:  not for or against money, but rather for or against an approach to life that makes money into a god.

Don’t fall for that, Jesus says.  Consider the birds of the air, and the lilies of the field.  God takes care of them, day in and day out, and God does and will take care of you, too.

Were we to take this seriously, Jesus continues, we would not only live lives free from unnecessary anxiety – we would also be freed to live lives devoted to the most meaningful things imaginable.  That is, we would be freed to live lives seeking after “the kingdom of God,” as Jesus puts it, that new reign of mercy and justice dawning even now.

What might we call this sort of liberty, this sort of life?  Call it a life of faith, of well-oriented trust.  Call it a life free from futile worries, and free for helping to usher in the dawning reign of heaven.


See Matthew 6:24-34, this coming Sunday’s gospel reading from the Revised Common Lectionary.  And a big SALT "thank you" to Alejandro Mallea for capturing the "two masters."