Fellow Passengers: This week’s Primary Passage* (Matthew 6:19-34) transports me to an upscale clothing store, where a less than sophisticated bloke ambles in to shop for his first ever three-piece suit. A savvy salesman immediately spots him as an easy mark. The salesman leads the man to a particular suit that has been on the rack for ages, and says, This suit is you. I can see you’re a man of extreme taste and style, and I know you’ll make this suit look like a million bucks. The man’s eyes light up, and he asks if he can try it on. Sure thing, the salesman says. The man comes out of the dressing room with the pants on, and they are obviously way too long. These pants don’t fit, the man says. Sure they do, the salesman replies. Everybody’s who’s anybody is wearing their suit pants that way these days. You just have to know how to wear a suit. Here, let me show you, you have to pull the pant legs up and then hold your knees together. That’s how you walk in a fine suit. The skeptical man asks, Are you sure? And he gets the confident response, Of course I’m sure. I’m a suit salesman, aren’t I?
The man then tries on the vest, and he can barely get it buttoned, it’s so tight. This vest doesn’t fit, the man complains. Of course it fits! The salesman replies. That’s how everybody is wearing their vests these days. You just have to know how to wear a suit. You have to hunch over just a bit and suck it in, pull all that weight up into your chest area and hold it there. The man does as instructed, looking very uncomfortable, but it does give more room in the mid section. And don’t forget about the pants legs! The salesman reminds him. The man hikes up his pants and puts his knees together, all the while sucking in his middle. He then tries on the jacket, and the sleeves are way too short. The jacket surely doesn’t fit! The man complains. Of course it fits! The salesman replies. That’s how everybody wears their jackets these days. You just have to know how to wear a suit. You have to raise your shoulders and pull your arms up into the sleeves, and put your elbows against your side to keep the sleeves in place. And don’t forget the vest—and the pants! The man does as instructed, hunches over a bit with knees together and stomach sucked in and shoulders raised with elbows against his side. Perfect! The salesman exclaims. I’ve never seen clothes more suited for a man than this suit is for you. Just like I told you, you look like a million bucks! The gullible man falls for it, hands over a VISA card, and leaves the store proudly wearing his very first suit, hunching over and walking and squeezing and sucking in as instructed. Two elderly women on the other side of the street spot him. Look at that poor fellow, one of them remarks. Isn’t he pitiful! The other woman answers, Oh, to see such handicap just breaks your heart, but don’t you think his suit looks nice?
For too long Christianity has tried to fit into the suits manufactured by the world. The pants of power and privilege and prosperity—they don’t fit! The straitjackets of style and social pressure and superior world views—they don’t fit! The body of Christ is ill-suited to wear values fabricated by a materialistic world that protects its treasure with violence; such outfits bind us. In conforming to the culture’s values, our spirits get deformed, instead of our being transformed into the likeness of Christ. Don’t worry about what you wear, Jesus said. Don’t be anxious about material treasures. Worry and anxiety—these are interesting words. They came into the English language about the same time as the King James Bible, around 400 years ago. Listen to their original meaning—the word anxious literally meant to choke. The word worry originally meant to strangle. Don’t we live in a day and age when our anxiety over earth’s treasures threaten to choke us, when the stress of securing our stuff strangles our spirits? Isn’t it high time for us to leave the world’s suits on the rack and do like the lilies, donning some vintage duds that are finely woven with threads of wonder and joy and hope and love and trust?
*Daily Passages are the weekday reflections of Stan Dotson, connecting culture to biblical texts. As always, your feedback and comments are welcome. Feel free to share where the passages take you in your journey of faith.