Meanwhile, we're winding up toward October 31. Traditionally on this evening, children dressed up as scary characters like economists and bankers come to our homes and attempt to coerce us into giving them candy and other nutrition-free junk. Some use the ancient epithet "trick or treat!" which sounds a little like investing in the stock market.
Hmmm...so there are threats on every side, it seems. What's a Christian to do? Spend all our time and energies in an attempt to keep all these threats from hurting us? Opt for self-protection at all costs? And for that matter, shut off all the lights and pretend not to be home when the little costumed threat-bringers show up?
Time to stop and ask "What would Jesus do?" And we have an answer. He himself was born into uncertain economic and political times--we'll talk more about that during Advent season--and faced threats similar to ours, although I don't think he worried about his 401(k). But he taught his disciples something very interesting in the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. (Click here to read what he said about possessions, prayer, fasting and faith in Chapter 6.)
Jesus explained that the Father knew exactly what is going on with each person, and is able, as well as ready, to provide all their needs. So the big idea, he says in verses 31 and 32, is that we should have faith in our Father's ability to provide for us:
And the Father has provided all our needs -- starting with sending his Son to live and die for us so we could live forever with him, and then for every other need
And what about all those little costumed characters who may come around in a couple of weeks? Just like with the economy and an uncertain future, I can't control them. But I have the choice to hide, run away, or face them calmly. So here's what The Lovely Joanne and I have been doing the last few years: knowing we'll get visitors asking for something, we decided to give them something much more valuable than candy. Instead of carving up pumpkins into scary faces, we carve pumpkins with the word "Jesus" and maybe a Christian fish symbol, or a heart and a cross. Then when the little guys come around to "scare" us, we give them the most reassuring message there is: "Jesus loves you." I'm always delighted at how the atmosphere turns around when we say those words. And then we give them some kind of treat, and a little card telling them there's a God who loves them. The evening ends up being a lot more fun for us all that way.
Jesus' words of reassurance that the Father is watching over us mean as much to me now as they did to the disciples 20 centuries ago. My Father has pulled me through a lot of pain and loss in my life, and I'm convinced he will keep doing it. That helps me not worry so much about the sky falling. Or the doorbell ringing. I pray it will do the same for you.