I'm currently in a bible study with some women at my church, and this one has been a struggle for me right out of the gate. The author and blogger is very popular, and her book was turned into a bible study by Lifeway. I read the book. It was okay, kinda like a gimmick that someone uses to have material to blog about (think "Julie and Julia"). But as far as bible study goes, it leaves a lot to be desired in the sound theology department.
We are encouraged to look at all the areas of excess in our lives, to examine our "first world problems" in light of real third world problems. And I get it. Really, I do. But as the weeks have progressed, I've noticed that this study (which leans heavily on social justice with a big absence of grace) has the women in my group becoming increasingly worried and fretful and anxious.
Philippians 4:6 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Let's just say that there's no peace of Christ in this study...at all.
The author pits the haves against the have nots, with some vague thought that if we give everything we own away (The Rich Young Ruler), we are being more like Jesus. But wait, I'm confused. Jesus said that salvation came to Zaccheus' house, and he only gave away half his possessions (this story isn't mentioned in the study...huh). Will half earn me a spot in heaven? Two-thirds? One hundred percent?
The author confesses that she worries about her stuff. She worries about her children's stuff. She worries about her closets and pantries and ipads. And she is torn, because she wants to impress you (her words), but how can she do it without her stuff?
Worry. Worry. Worry. I think that she really believes if she worries about these things, she has a heart like Jesus. And my real problem is that I do not know where her heart is.
But here's what I do know.
The study brought up the words of Jesus "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also....You cannot serve both God and Money."
Worry about that, people!
And there, it stopped.
But if you just read the next verses, it put it all into context!
Jesus tells us to NOT worry about our clothes, our food, our possessions. Yes, you can think about them. And yes, you should think about sharing what you have with others. But don't worry about them and make them your all consuming thought every day. The Father knows that you need them. He will provide.
Do not worry about tomorrow.
And here's why.
Worry is the thief of joy.
Let me say that again.
Worry is the thief of joy.
And who is the thief?
Jesus tells us in John 10:10: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
Here's what I know about worry. Worry is a slippery slope that leads to depression. And depression is where the Devil wants to keep me, in a place where I do not believe in God's promises, where I miss out on the grace.
Can I borrow a few words from Oprah Winfrey?
"I been down that road, Honey Child!"
(Ha ha ha! Every time she says that on the Weight Watchers commercial, I literally laugh out loud.)
I heard someone once describe worry as putting a loaf of bread into the oven to bake. But instead of leaving it alone, worry opens the door every few minutes to check the bread. But every time I open the door in worry, I let out the heat that bakes the bread. And in my constant worry, that bread never gets a chance to bake in the oven!
And here's what Jesus says about worry in Luke:
"Fear not, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32
Oh how I love those words!
I love it that Jesus calls us the sheep of his flock. I love it that I have a Father in heaven who wants to give me the kingdom! I love it that it pleases my Father to give every good and perfect gift from above. What on earth could be better than that?
My hope and prayer is that the women in this study come away with more than clean closets and a guilty conscience. Let's face it. What good will it be for a man if he can Konmari all his closets, yet forfeits his soul?
Because in the end, it's not about our closets, or our pantries, or our ipads.
It's about the heart.
I will probably never have clean closets or pantries or checking accounts. But what I really desire above all is to have a clean heart.
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Give me pure motives. Let me love on your people in response to your great love for me. And let all praise and honor and glory be yours, Father!
And this is for you, Vikki H! You wanted to know what the other side of the bible pages look like. Yes, they do bleed through. But I'm not going to worry about it! (Remember, worry is the thief of joy!) If I ever wanted to journal on the other side, I can use a paper overlay or I can cover that side in gesso. No worries!
Fear not, little flock! The Lamb sits on the throne!