Take the day lilies, for instance. They don’t put in overtime or work themselves to death. But not even Donald Trump, with his vast fortunes, has any chance of looking as good as they do. They bloom only for a day, and the next day they’re just fire starter. It’s no great leap of faith to see that if God cares for them, God cares for you.
With this, Jesus says that working hard to get ahead is a waste of time. Not working hard, mind you, but working hard to get ahead.
Wealth, and anything that wealth can get us, is a mirage. Temporary. Transient. As the Buddhists might say, impermanent. Striving after these things is bound just to make us old before our time (and worth nothing but fire starter), to burn us out.
Neither is there any use wearing ourselves and God out by praying for wealth. In spite of what you might hear from the likes of Joel Osteen or Creflo Dollar, wealth is not a measure of God’s blessing. Never has been, never will be.
Instead, Jesus’ says, God cares for you. Now that you don’t have to work to prove how much better-off you are, you’re free to do what’s really important.
May the God of peace personally make you 100% dedicated to the cause. May you remain whole, body, soul, and spirit. And may you be blameless in the end.
Indeed, God who calls you will do this.
And, friends, pray for us. Greet one another with the kiss of righteousness. I order you, by God, to read this letter out loud to everyone there. The grace of Jesus be with you.
Paul’s letter ends with blessing. And, as harsh and as wrong as Paul’s words have been at times, he is right to make the last word a word of peace.
And, we might note that this blessing’s concern is for wholeness in at least four different aspects:
Wholeness of purpose and dedication. May you be 100% dedicated to the cause. And not just any cause but a great and good one. May you not be second-guessing your purpose, or that you have the capacity to achieve it.
Wholeness of the individual. Body, soul, and spirit. Functioning together, each complete and healthy in itself, but also implying that they are working in concert with each other. It takes the balance of each of these areas of one’s life to really be healthy and complete, and to be able to live well and to work effectively.
Wholeness of character over time. In other words, when you get to the end, you can look back without regret. May the patterns of your life, even when things have come up unexpectedly, or have taken turns for the worse, reflect the kind of resilience and fortitude of character that make you a blessing to others, even when it seems there are no immediate blessings for you.
Wholeness of the community. Greet each other with the kiss of righteousness is not just an ancient custom. But may every interaction with your neighbor, your family, your co-workers, or your church members be one in which you have done your best by them. Regardless of their actions, may yours be the right ones.
Do this, and the grace of Jesus will be with you. Not some magical pixie dust grace of Jesus from the outside. The grace, the goodness, the peace, that Jesus demonstrated in his life – that grace will be with you, lived out in you.
May God the father personally, (and Jesus) bring us back to you.
May Jesus fill you and surround you with love for each other and for everyone, just as we are full of love for you.
May that love strengthen your hearts and make you blameless in God’s sight when Jesus and his followers appear.
This blessing is as close as the New Testament gets to a trinitarian formula. But the church invented the trinity a couple generations after these writings.
As it is, language – any language, New Testament language included – is full of triplets. This is one of them. And, as blessings go, this one is a good model. Use any of these in any combination to build and deepen your relationships in any facet of your life:
May we see each other again. What better affirmation of a bond between people than the expression of your desire to be near someone? And, when people who are genuinely engaged with each other get together, the potential for joyful creation and remarkable work increases exponentially.
May your love and affection for others be contagious. For when the circle of those who are together in mutual respect and affirmation, there is not only the potential for creative work, but for real and meaningful community. And,
When it’s all over, may you have no regrets. Having spent your days in creative meaningful community looking back, you know without second-guessing that what you did was worth the while, and the people whose lives you’ve made a difference for will (whether they recognize it or not) be better off because you were there.
And now that you have read this, may these blessings be with you.