How do you grow spiritual fruit?
Jesus saw the wearisome burden upon those who had gotten riches and were trying to hold onto them. He knew the cancerous nature of wealth and often warned of its danger. He spoke of the “deceitfulness of riches” (Matt. 13:22). Riches are deceitful precisely because they lead us to trust in them, and Jesus saw that trap and the spiritual destructiveness which attends it. This was the burden that bore down upon the rich young ruler. Not only did he have great possessions, but more significantly, the great possessions had him. Of all oppressions his was the most spiritually debilitating.
To all those weighted down by the burden of tomorrow, or any other burden, Jesus extends a gracious invitation, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Our task in the pages that follow is to seek an understanding of the teaching which is the basis for this call to liberation, this summons to the peaceful life.
Jesus points to the fact that whatever we fix as our treasure will obsess our whole life: “For where your treasure is there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21). He was not saying that the heart should or should not be where the treasure is, but that it will be.
There is no option in this matter: our whole mind will be fixed around our treasure. When Jesus said that “no one can serve two masters,” he did not mean that it was unwise to serve two masters, but that it was impossible. If our treasure is in our job, or our family, or any other earthly thing, our mind will not be on God.
If all within us is honed down to the single treasure of God the Father and his Kingdom, then we are living as His children. We should be committed to the goal of a single aim in life and a unselfish spirit. Jesus lived in this singleness of purpose with God so perfectly that he could say without embellishment that he did nothing of his own accord (John 5:19). His words were the words of the Father, his deeds the deeds of the Father. And he calls us in our life to enter this unity of purpose.
Jesus is not telling us to refrain from living life to the fullest. No, we work, but we work in faith, not in the anxious concern of distrust. On a practical level, it is at this point that the nagging problem of “faith versus works” is resolved. We live, centered in trust and faith and all of our action and work arises out of that center. It is not fear and anxiety over tomorrow that prompt us to work, but obedience to God the Father’s love for us. We make provision as it seems right and good (just as the birds do), but what comes to us is not so much the result of our labor as it is the gracious gift of God. We live the carefree life of unconcern for possessions in the midst of our work.
When this spirit of trust pervades all of our efforts, we seek first Christ’s Kingdom and his righteousness, the focus of our thought, speech, and action God the Father.
“I recommend to you holy simplicity” (Francis de Sales).
All men and women , created in the image of God, are called to develop as much as possible their capacity to be loving and compassionate human beings. This is a daunting challenge, when we consider the ‘tooth and claw’ mentality of so much that surrounds us in our competitive, violent society, or, from a very different perspective, when we consider Paul’s injunction to ‘have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who …emptied himself, taking the form of a servant… humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross’ (Philippians 2:5-8).
It seems that what is required is both and inner directedness and resilience, and an inner detachment. Both are God-given gifts. The seeds of these are dormant, struggling or flourishing with us all, and reflect the present intermingling of our spirituality, our psychological well-being, and our perception of the pressures of life at the moment.