Jesus said, ‘do not worry about tomorrow’. But Jesus wasn’t about to graduate.
It’s a daunting prospect to see yourself approaching the end of the educational conveyor belt. Our post-pandemic, globally unstable, inflation-peaking world looks a lot less safe than the familiarity of lecture timetables, commutes to campus, and even exam hall routines. It’s already June – where did that year go? And what’s next?
You might be forgiven for wondering if Jesus was really in touch with reality when he told his disciples not to worry about what they would eat, drink or wear tomorrow. Or you might be offended by the implication that those of us prone to worry are like ‘pagans’ who ‘run after all these things’.
But the issue with these ‘pagan’ types is not that they wanted some sense of security in a deeply insecure world. The issue, according to Jesus, is that their search for security is focused on things in the here and now.
Come to think of it, questions like ‘What shall I eat?’ or ‘What shall I wear?’ – aren’t so far from our day to day experience. We might not ask them with the same existential urgency of the pagans – but then again, final year students might find themselves lying in bed at night asking ‘Will I like this grad scheme?’; ‘How long can I last at home with my parents before they drive me crazy?’; or ‘How many shifts at Starbucks do I need to pull off before I can start my travels?’ Different questions, same underlying angst.
I meet with one student prone to catastrophising. Worries about his future fuel his anxiety, and his anxiety in turn causes his panic attacks. Not everyone suffers to that extreme of course, but conversations with this student have helped him to recognise his own emotional centre of gravity. When security in an insecure world becomes an obsessive preoccupation, our lives are off balance. And people that are off-balance tend to fall over.
I think that’s why Jesus tells his hearers to make the ‘kingdom of God’ their preoccupation. In contrast to the pagans, Jesus’ followers are to seek God’s kingdom first and foremost. Do that, and the rest of your priorities will fall into place behind a security the world cannot give.
To ‘seek first the kingdom’ means to be present in today. Today he gives us our daily bread. And today we can encounter the king through the work he has prepared in advance for us to do.
But hang on – does that mean students shouldn’t plan for the future? That they should just focus on today’s deadline and forget about graduation until it arrives?
Not at all.
The Bible shows us that it’s no bad thing to make plans: Joseph drew up designs for barns that could hold Egypt’s harvest; Nehemiah had a strategy for rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls; Paul garnered support to get to Spain. Making plans for tomorrow can be today’s work, and making God-honouring plans might even be a way to ‘seek his kingdom first’.
As ever, CS Lewis puts it well. ‘The duty of planning tomorrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the present… [but God] does not want men to give the future their hearts, to place their treasure in it.’
If you’re a final-year student – or you know one – planning the transition to post-uni life right now is far from a waste of time. In fact, wise forethought is a good investment in your days to come.
So whether you’re about to graduate or you’re someone who wants to see students graduate well, help is at hand. In June, Routed LIVE will run as a four-part webinar course to help final year students prepare for the jump into work not only with their faith intact, but with a sense of purpose for life and work that lie ahead.
Jesus may not have been about to graduate, but he was human and familiar with living life in an uncertain world. His invitation, as CS Lewis implied, is to believe that God cares for our todays and our tomorrows.
With that conviction deep in our bones, we have our emotional centres of gravity not in tomorrow, nor even in today – for today has enough trouble of its own. We make our plans for tomorrow without the kind of anxiety the pagans suffered. We seek his kingdom first.