instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Comfort and security: the promises of Christ

Let's see where we wind up starting with Rob's comment:
Jesus instructs us to *take up our cross* and follow Him. Certainly, by "take up your cross" He did not mean that we should pursue comfort and security as the greatest goods of life on earth.
We'll start with categorical agreement.

And let's continue by calling to mind some of the things Jesus did say about comfort and security:
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal, for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.

Do not worry and say, "What are we to eat?" or "What are we to drink?" or "What are we to wear?" All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for a fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.

Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
And so on.

I suppose the usual way of putting it is that the comfort and security Jesus promises His disciples refers, not to life on earth, but life in the world to come. And in fact, passages like Luke 6:20-26 ("Blessed are you who are poor.... But woe to you who are rich....") actively contrast comfort and security in this life with comfort and security in the life to come.

But let's not be too hasty. There's a difference between comfort and security in this life and the comfort and security of this life. Faith in Christ brings comfort even amidst the discomforts of life. Hope in Christ brings security even amidst insecurity.

We shouldn't be too quick to separate this life from eternal life, since through Baptism our eternal life has already begun. Jesus does promise us comfort and security, not as a reward after we die, but as a gift right now, right here. It's not the material comfort and security we might want, but it is no less real, no less present in our fallen world, for being spiritual.

In fact, to the extent comfort and security are subjective measurements of how we perceive ourselves, it doesn't make much difference whether they are based on material or spiritual reasons.

The question, then, is to what extent material comfort and security can be sought without interfering with spiritual comfort and security. And the answer, I suppose, was given by Jesus: "Seek first the kingdom of God...."