“Never seek sustenance through human schemes, for you will die of hunger–and rightly so. Your eyes on your Spouse! He will sustain you. Once He is pleased, those least devoted to you will give you food even though they may not want to, as you have seen through experience. . . . God wants some to have an income, and in their case it’s all right for the mto worry about their income since that goes with their vocation” (The Way of Perfection, Chapter 2, paragraph 1).
Obviously, St. Teresa is addressing her Sisters in this work. I’m presently on my third reading of The Way of Perfection, and this is the first time it has really spoken to me. The first time, I got nothing from it, for several reasons. Part of it is her somewhat “rambling” style and her constant insistence that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Another was that, since it was written to nuns, I didn’t see how it applied to me. After I began attending OCDS meetings 10 years ago, and after I’d become more formally versed in Carmelite spirituality, I read it again. That time, I got a little more from it, but not much.
This time, it’s really opening up to me.
Anyway, obviously, laity should have a concern about income–St. Francis de Sales says something similar in _Introduction to the Devout Life_. However, St. Teresa’s words about trusting God over human schemes should be followed by every Christian. It is the theme of the entire Bible. When the book of Hebrews talks about “faith” and interprets the Old Testament as a story of how those who have “faith” will be “justified,” it really is talking about *trust*.
The “faith” that gets one “justified” is not faith that God exists; it is faith that God will fulfill His promises.
I also find that, while the lay vocation is to endeavour, we still have to get things from people. When she says, “those least devoted to you will give you food,” that doesn’t just apply to monasteries seeking donors. It also applies, for example, to laymen praying for jobs and getting employed by very anti-Christian employers. It applies to laymen praying for financial assistance and receiving discount offers in the mail, unexpected refunds, etc.
There is a principle I call “plundering the Egyptians,” after Ex. 3:21-22: “I will even make the Egyptians so well-disposed toward this people that, when you leave, you will not go empty-handed. Every woman shall ask her neighbor and her house guest for silver and gold articles and for clothing to put on your sons and daughters. Thus you will despoil the Egyptians.”
People give us stuff, even when we don’t need it (and we redonate that). Random people give us their cast-off toys and clothes. One time, we walked into a Golden Corral, right as a thunderstorm was starting. Lightning struck, and the power went out for a second. The registeres went down, so they hand-wrote our tab and said the manager would come by when the computers were up. The manager came by. “It’s on the house,” he said.
A couple other times, we’ve had coupons wrung up wrong. We’ve gone up to point out the error, that we were given an extra free meal, or whatever, and the manager said. “Don’t worry about it.”
Funny: I came across this verse last year, and it really struck me. I haven’t seriously researched it, though. I just did a Google search to find the citation, and, it turns out, there’s a great deal of literature out there about it.
Interestingly enough, here’s a fellow who came across a similar reading of the same passage, arguing that God uses the excesses of non-believers to provide “scraps” for His followers to glean from, and that the world owes it to us for its persecutions. Also important is that Egypt persecuted Israel for “overpopulation.” The Egyptians’ wealth was gained through contraception, which, historically, they invented.
St. Augustine interpreted the passage spiritually to defend the idea of Christians finding worth in pagan myths and pagan philosophy.