Traveling light in this journey we call life can take the form of the simplicity of lifestyle. To be simple does not mean to be suffering from want and to lack what one needs in life. To be simple is to live within the bounds of the basic necessities in life, to be peacefully contented with what is essential. Mark’s gospel records Jesus’ instructions: “Bring nothing for the journey except for walking staff and sandals” (v. 8). In other words, bring what is necessary and what facilitates your purpose; put down the extra “baggage” as these will slow and weigh you down. Well, this is fine and very reasonable so far.
But what about this? “Bring not even food or money!” If Jesus is addressing us today, we would certainly be very quick to react: “What?! Wait a minute! Are you serious? No food and no money?!” “Well, then, I’ll bring a credit card instead.” Such a reaction is predictable because it just expresses what we have become--insecure and helplessly dependent on money. But still, how do we make sense of Jesus’ injunction not to bring provisions?
Two things may help us see the meaning and relevance of this gospel. First, the single-mindedness for the mission. Second, the dependence on God’s providence.
Single-mindedness. Jesus exhorts his disciples to travel light. To bring only what is necessary because this facilitates the achievement of the purpose for which they are sent. The disciples are to preach repentance, to cure the sick, to expel demons, in short to announce that the reign of God is at hand. This is the purpose. This is the mission. The disciples ought to always have this in mind. Material possessions are cumbersome and its accumulation can distract them from this mission. But to travel light is to be single-minded about one’s goals. A disciple should always be on the go.
You see, to be simple is to be single-minded for the mission, undistracted by the attractions that this world offers. Our life has a purpose. It is our task to discern what that is and to be directed by that God-given purpose. So, it’s best to ask ourselves, “What is the god-given purpose of my life?” Without it, my life will be disoriented, easily swayed by the many tantalizing options offered by this materialistic and consumerist society. When our purpose or mission is unclear, it is easy for us to settle into living an extravagant lifestyle because we are misled to think that this is what life means. The irony though is that when our true purpose remains unfulfilled, we experience the deepest, disturbing emptiness—a void that no amount of money can fill.
Again, “What is my purpose or mission in life?” All the things I have are mere instruments to attain this. Many things I possess may not even be necessary for this. To simplify then helps me attain focus and single-mindedness.
Dependence on God’s providence. “Bring not even food or money.” It’s quite hard for a modern man to set out for his mission without these provisions. That’s why we may react like this, “Well, then, no money; but I’ll bring my credit card instead.”
The Lord is not saying here that we will not be needing food or money in doing our mission. In fact, any form of ministering requires financial support and cannot be sustained without it. The gospel reminds us that the disciples have to depend on the support of generous household who will accept them: “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave from there” (v. 10). Making money is not the apostles’ mission. They have to rely on the generosity of those to whom they have been sent. They have to trust in God’s providence. And believe that when God wants something to be done, God provides. I’ve always believed that the generous benefactors of the Church’s different ministries are signs of God’s continuing support to the mission.
In this age of strategic planning, we do not leave any room for chance. Everything is planned from the objectives down to the budget needs. Somehow we tend to leave God out of the equation and go on with our projects as if we are the ultimate director of things. And when things go wrong we end up taking tranquilizers to give us peace, to save us from depression, or even from going insane. Or the worst is, like some of the richest seemingly invincible persons in the world hit by global financial crisis, we end up jumping on a speeding train to call it quits.
Like the early disciples of Jesus, we need to trust in God’s providence. This is a humble stance, recognizing that we are not in control of everything. And many things are uncertain. Like what the inspirational author, Max Lucado, suggests, we need to trust in God and allow Him to take care of the unnecessary baggage we wrongly carry along with us.
Travel light. Be simple. Trust in God.