Matthew 6: 25-26 – 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Last week we celebrated our nation’s birthday: the day we officially declared ourselves a sovereign and independent nation; free from the dictates of England and its monarchy. We now rule ourselves, having established a republic and a governing constitution with the intention to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
…the blessings of liberty – freedom, the philosophy that an individual can act, think, speak, and live their life according to their own will. Our Constitution recognizes this as an unalienable, or inalienable right, along with life and the pursuit of happiness. These are moral, absolute, and natural rights, which cannot be sold or transferred.
It is good to take some time and reflect on what this all means: to look at the rights we have in contrast to other countries around the world - the abundance materially and the personal freedom, and the example to the world of how conflict can be handled peacefully within a democratic republic. As the Buddha said: In a controversy the instant we feel anger we have already ceased striving for the truth and have begun striving for ourselves.
It is this country’s nature however, to evolve. From our nation’s conception to this very moment the debate wages over how much the government and the social contract we abide by should interfere with our inalienable rights. We seek clarification and consensus regarding situations where someone asserting their rights interferes with someone else’s claim to their rights.
But I am not here to engage that argument, for it is outside the spiritual domain. My focus will always be upon spiritual pursuits, and in this regard, I continue to ponder our pursuit of freedoms, whether individual or societal, to the exclusion of peace, love, joy and the other gifts of the Spirit and the teachings of Christ. Are we choosing to be unhappy unless our idea of self-reliance is fulfilled? Is it possible to become dependent upon the idea of independence for finding meaning and value in our lives?
It reminds me of the lesson Viktor Frankl gives us in his book, “Man’s Search For Meaning”: we cannot avoid suffering, but we can choose to find meaning and renewal within it, and refuse to succumb to self-destruction. Each of us are solely responsible for fulfilling the meaning of our life.
Yet, some of us have come to rely so much on external conditions for our happiness and a feeling of completion that we have lost our spiritual centers. In John 17:11-16 Jesus teaches that although we can be in the world, we are not of the world. This means that although we must live within the limitations and laws of a physical existence, we can elevate our thoughts and awareness to God and to our spiritual beingness.
In one of the 122 English translations that exists of the Tao Te Ching we read of the same idea: "I must form a balance between the world about me and the world inside me."
Although we can see what we believe to be flaws and faults of individuals, institutions, and the government, we can still choose not to have our joy and peace depleted by them. Rather, we can focus our attention and heighten our awareness on higher levels of thinking and living, acknowledging the needs for improvement, but not allotting our mental and emotional energies to those areas.
If our energy and desire for change is great enough around a cause or issue, and we feel the inner guidance, we can certainly devote our physical and mental energies to what we believe in. After all, that is how things get accomplished.
Yet even amidst our activism we can maintain a spiritual focus. This is the lesson of spiritual dependence that we learn in much of Luke, including 6:20; 24. And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples and said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God… But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
The poor, from a strictly socioeconomic perspective, having little or no wealth, are almost entirely dependent upon God. They look to God for all things. The rich tend to consider themselves self-reliant and depend upon their wealth to see them through. They have little or no dependence upon God or their inner spiritual natures. This is why Jesus says the poor will have the Kingdom of God. It has nothing to do with money; it has everything to do with focus, faith, and our reliance on Spirit within us to express through our lives fully.
The principle is expressed again in Matthew 5:3 - “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God.” Poor in spirit means to be humble, to move our attention off the ego and onto our indwelling Christ nature. It is easier for the rich to ignore their inner natures and rely on their physical resources for happiness and fulfillment. Yet again, this has nothing to do with money or wealth; it is about where we choose to place our faith and focus.
In Luke 12:48 we read, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” For God wants us to be rich, wealthy, expressing abundance in all areas of our lives AND be aligned with Spirit – in this world, but not of this world. Both, is what is being asked of us.
To those who have been given much, much is demanded: more discipline in looking to God; more inner attention is required, a clearer focus on our higher self; a deeper awareness of the oneness of all of Creation.
Yet as much as we would like to believe it, we are physically, mentally, and emotionally dependent on this earthly plane. What some call independent, others would call lonely, isolated, emotionally stunted, and cut-off. What some claim as independence, others would refer to as thoughtless, crude, uncaring, or egocentric.
We need people; we need society. We can’t make our own vehicles, clothing, books, or technology. We are dependent upon people’s talents, gifts, skills, services, products, and knowledge. To deny that is to lie to ourselves and live a life of hypocrisy.
It is about developing a spiritual dependence upon God. The more dependent we are upon God for everything - who we are, what we have, what to eat, what to wear - the less dependent we are upon outer conditions, and consequently, the more outwardly independent we are. Our focus moves from external surroundings and needs to the inner awareness that there is nothing that we need; there is no loss, no lack, and no law that can diminish or expand our freedom. We already are whole, complete, and free.
This is true earthly independence and is born of a deep God-oriented spiritual dependence, which still allows ample room for joy, love, harmony, and peace. We aren’t concerned with someone infringing upon our earthly rights or limiting our freedoms because there is nothing anyone can do, say, or be that can alter our pure state of wholeness, love, joy, peace and total freedom in Spirit.
So, it is my prayer that we will be truly independent; in this world, but not of this world; enjoying and engaging every aspect of what life brings yet keeping an ever-vigilant eye on our indwelling Christ light and expressing the fullest of our spiritual nature into Creation. Let us pray that this great nation continues to look to our Creator of All for balance and maintains its example for the world of how to live in peace despite differences politically, religiously, and racially.