Jesus' response to vulnerability

Jesus knew the vulnerability of human life, of needing food and shelter to survive. And he knew the anxiety that can overwhelm us in this need. Yet he did not respond in the usual way, by working hard to gather up for ourselves what we need and storing as much as we can for the future. Instead, Jesus responded with faith.

Faith is giving up our own will, our own purposes, to God and depending on him completely for our good. And this is exactly what we see when Jesus talks about our daily needs:

“I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat, nor about your body, what you shall put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! …Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O men of little faith!” (Lk 12.22-24)
Jesus taught that we should set aside concerns for our own physical needs (“O men of little faith!”) and trust God to supply them, because “your Father knows that you need them.” And not only did he assure us that we would have what we needed, but he also described the life of faith as beautiful, like that of the birds that are fed without storehouses and the lilies that are beautifully dressed without toil. Strikingly similar to the happy life of children well cared for.

Jesus also demonstrated such a life of faith. In what we know of his public life, his needs—as well as the needs of his disciples—were met without laboring for their own daily bread. And when Jesus sent out his disciples, he very specifically instructed them not to take provisions but to trust God to provide through those they met. Later, near the end of his ministry, Jesus asked his disciples, “When I sent you out with no purse or bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” They answered, “Nothing.” (Lk 22.35)

Jesus seems to embrace our vulnerability of daily physical needs. Rather than seeing it as a source of anxiety or the driving force for endless work and hoarding, he seems to see it as an opportunity for faith. Our vulnerability, like that of the birds and lilies, is part of God’s creation. And for us it provides the opportunity to freely and joyfully rely on God’s provision rather than struggling to provide for ourselves and fighting to keep what we have gathered. This is the ongoing act of faith. Which God responds to not only by providing for our physical needs, but more importantly by filling us with his presence, in which we experience the fulfillment and joy of total love. Thus our humble physical vulnerability becomes the opportunity to address our deeper problem of separation from God, and experience deeper union with God through our response to the daily needs that arise.

Also, as we see in Jesus’ life, our needs provide an opportunity to encourage others to respond in faith. Our faith (and God’s provision) shows the way to faith for others. That those struggling around us might also know God’s care and presence.