My favorite Martin Luther quote (though it likely is more legend than actual) is “If I knew that tomorrow was the end of the world (or the world would go to pieces), I would still plant an apple tree.” The point? I believe it simply reminds us that if we are alive in Christ, we are ready for the world to end, and thus, our normal, daily, healthy routine has no need to change if the world is about to end. Or, as Jesus puts it (actual, not legend), “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24.44)
It seems as though this coronavirus has more people talking about the end of the world (again). At least I have heard more people mentioning it. And, I don’t know, but I think that, when discussed in a healthy way, this awareness is not a bad thing (note that my emphasis is upon “in a healthy way”).
Life in the 21st century is filled with so many frills that we tend to have a difficult time discerning between frills and necessities. Sports? Concerts? Restaurants? Bars? I have yet to hear a good argument for any of them being anything other than frills. But, wow, how different our day-to-day lives become when they are taken away! And what do we replace them with? Facebook? Netflix? Hulu? Take-outs? Or, in other words, different frills!
Now, do not get me wrong. I am not saying that frills are evil. I am not even saying they are bad or harmful. I am simply saying that they are not necessarily necessary … and that, perhaps, our insatiable desire for them causes us to forget about (ignore?) the necessities of life as we are consumed by the junk … and that, maybe, the COVID-19 pandemic, and our governor’s “Stay home” order, is providing an in-your-face opportunity to lessen our lust for frills and turn to some of those healthy habits that often get left behind. The problem, I believe, is not so much in the frills, but in the frill-seekers!
So, instead of talking about the end of time, I am thinking about the beginning. Go back with me for a moment to Genesis 1.31 where we are told “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” That “very good” included Adam and Eve, all the cosmos and everything in it – including all the apple trees. None of this had yet changed (except for about one third of the angels) when “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” (Genesis 3.6a) Whether or not you believe the legend of this being an apple tree does not really matter to me, but what I do find significant is that it sounds like what God actually created was a “frilly tree” … and that the frills were part of his “very good” creation.
The “very good” falls apart in the second half of that verse as “she took of its fruit and ate, and she gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate”. (Genesis 3.6b) The problem was not with the legendary apple in the tree, but with the pair on the ground! And so, it remains today.
Frills or no frills, we live in a complex and convoluted world. It has been complex since day one – or at least day three. However, it became extremely convoluted in Genesis 3. Thus, the twisting and intertwining of frills and necessities … and many of the problems that are currently ‘upsetting our apple carts’ today.
Thus, the real issue, in my mind, is not ‘frills or no frills’, but, rather, is what do we do with Jesus as he says, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4.4 / Deuteronomy 8.3) The expression “cleanliness is next to godliness” does not mean cleanliness is unimportant, but rather that cleanliness rightly flows from godliness … and that godliness is found in the one who tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14.6)
I truly enjoy many of the frills of creation … but I pray that while we are staying home for the sake of others, we all are led back to what is truly necessary.