Living In the Present Tense

“Therefore, stop worrying about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. 
Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:34 (Common English Bible)       
            It is the practice of the Eskimos never to carry the day’s evil experiences, its troubles and its quarrels, over into the next day. Two Eskimo hunters might become engaged in a violent dispute over the division of the game which they had taken, and heated words might even bring them to blows, but once the sun had set and they had retired to sleep, all memory of the quarrel would be erased from their spirits, and the next day they would greet each other as brothers. If you were to exclaim in surprise: “But I thought you were enemies. You were fighting yesterday!” they would answer: “Ah, but that was yesterday and we live only today.”[i]That is living in the present tense!
            Mark Twain, with his characteristic humor, once commented that he has suffered many things most of which never happened. Doctors tell us that much of our anxiety, which often results in physical, emotional, and spiritual unease, is located in tomorrow, a preoccupation with fears of the future. Consequently, our fears of tomorrow rob us of the opportunity to live fully and abundantly today. Naturally, wise and reasonable decisions and personal behavior must shepherd us in the present day. Careless spending today will result in debt tomorrow. A word carelessly spoken or a relationship betrayed may negatively impact all of our tomorrows. Not all of us have been nurtured in the Eskimo culture!
            Jesus’ invitation in this teaching is to locate our hearts in God. Worry and anxiety is all about trying to avoid something, about trying to get away from something. The strain of worry is indicative that we don’t trust the future. Jesus asks that we approach life from another perspective. Rather than fleeing what we fear most, Jesus asks that we run toward God. As Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.”[ii]Jesus asks that we live in the present tense, free from the regrets of yesterday and the fears of tomorrow. That is possible after we have accepted God’s forgiveness for the past and trust in God’s care for the future.
            Thomas Long writes that there is a kind of worry about the coming day that is normal, even healthy. “Tomorrow’s chemistry test or job interview is bound to provide concern, and this command ‘stop worrying about tomorrow’ is not an invitation to finesse the exam or to waltz into the interview unprepared. Rather, it speaks to the deeper, more basic fear that something is out there in the future that can destroy our basic worth as a human being, something finally stronger than God’s care, some silent killer shark swimming toward us from the future.”[iii]Jesus asks that we cling to God in such a manner that we can affirm that whatever tomorrow brings, it also brings God.


[i]Clayton E. Williams, “Living Today Forever,” Best Sermons: 1955 Edition, edited by G. Paul Butler (New York, London & Toronto: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1955) 106.
[ii]Thomas G. Long, Matthew (Louisville & London: Westminster John Know Press, 1997) 76.
[iii]Long, 76.

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