Matthew 6:24-34; Galatians 5:25 – 6:10; 1 Kings 17:8-16
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus says to you, “Do not be anxious about your life.” Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Easy for Him to say,” right? After all, there are an awful lot of things to be anxious about in your life, aren’t there? Money: Will you have enough of it when you retire? Will you have enough of it to send your kids to college? Will you have enough of it to buy groceries for the next week? Health: Will you develop heart disease, diabetes, or cancer? Will you maintain a sound mind into your old age, or will you suffer from senility, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease? If you suffer a stroke or a completely debilitating health incident, who will make decisions concerning your treatment, whether you are given life support or whether they pull the plug? Kids: Will they remain safe from predators and abusers? Will they make smart and moral choices concerning sex, drugs, and alcohol? Will they get into a good college, find a good spouse, continue to practice their faith and attend church? And that’s just a smattering of personal, home and family life anxieties. That’s not to mention things like terrorism and war, crime, taxes, politics, etc. “Do not be anxious about your life?” “Right, easy for You to say, Lord!”
And, besides, you think, isn’t anxiety natural? Isn’t it irresponsible to not worry? Why, then, does Jesus exhort you to not be anxious? He exhorts you to not be anxious because anxiety and worry are a type of worship and bondage to a false god, an idol. He indicates this by saying, “No one can serve two masters.” Now, have you thought of anxiety and worry as a master? Likely not, but they most definitely are. Anxiety and worry can be all encompassing and enslaving. They can rob you of contentment, peace, and joy in your life, and they can be serious distractions to the work that you should be doing, the care that you should be giving, and the love that you should be sharing. Moreover, Jesus asks, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” You can’t, and you don’t! So, then, what’s the point of being anxious? Why worry? What does it benefit you? Absolutely nothing! Rather, instead, anxiety robs you. Worry kills you, little by little, each and every day of your life that you are consumed with fear of what tomorrow will bring, each day of your life that you live and love for fleeting, worldly pleasures and possessions, and each day of your life that you place your trust in people and things that do not, will not, and cannot last.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Well, is it? For some of you, food and clothing are a pretty big part of your life and what gives it meaning and purpose. However, for others of you it’s success, your own, or your children’s. For others of you it’s sports, health, material possessions, the right car, the right house, the right husband or wife. But, are these things truly your life? Are they the meaning and the purpose of your life? Do they give definition to your life? If you are honest with yourself, and you might as well be, they probably do, at least in some small way. You see, Jesus didn’t teach against this because it was an uncommon human temptation and sin. Jesus would have you see that these created things are gifts of His Father, your Creator. If you are anxious and worried about obtaining them and keeping them, then you have placed your fear, love, and trust in created things, God’s gifts to you, instead of giving Him thanks and praise for them and receiving them as gifts, rich and abundant, to meet your own needs and to share with others. These gifts are for you, but they do not define you and give your life meaning. You are created in God’s image, therefore He must define you and give your life meaning.
Moreover, you are of much more importance to Him than the created material things He has made. Jesus’ point is that, “if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” The irrational beasts of the earth crave these things and are consumed with their pursuit, but God has created you and blessed you with a rational soul that you may be self-aware and aware of God. Therefore, you have the ability to see and to know that, not only does God provide you all that you need for your body and your life, but He provides these for you in abundance. You have enough for yourself, and surplus to share with others. You can freely give your last “handful of flour” and “a little oil” trusting that the Lord will provide for you and yours. For, when you give to others, your Lord promises that it will be given back to you, “a good measure, shaken together, pressed down, running over” which will be poured into your lap.
It is in this regard that Jesus makes a distinction between the faithful Jews and the uncircumcised Gentiles. He speaks of the Gentiles here much in the same way in which I did of the carnal beasts – they are driven by fleshly, carnal instincts to pursue carnal desires and passions. But not so you, Jesus teaches; not so you, children of the New Israel, who place your fear, love, and trust in Him. To you, Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow.” You see, it’s all about faith, which is, itself, a gracious gift of God your Father. God the Holy Spirit creates faith within you through the Word of God. It is faith that trusts God to keep His promises. It is faith that fears God’s righteousness and holiness and what it would mean if God were to renege on His promises. It is faith that loves God, His Law, His Will, and His Word, love that flows from His love for you poured out in His Son, Jesus Christ.
You do not live in continual pursuit of carnal desires and passions, but you live “by the Spirit” and you “walk by the Spirit.” Therefore, worry and anxiety over mammon – that is worldly, material goods and fleshly desires and passions – these are not your masters. Yet, you do have a master, the Lord. Here is where some Christians try to straddle the fence. While they try to shun worry and anxiety over worldly and fleshly things, they also remain unwilling to surrender completely to God and to submit to and confess Him as their Lord and Master. However, Jesus doesn’t speak this way, and neither does He allow for fence-straddlers. Indeed, He says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” No, Christ has not set you free to fend for yourself, but you still have a master, the Lord, and, in a sense, you are a slave. Yet, though you may be a slave, you are truly free in Christ. You are freer even than the birds of the air who neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns and yet are fed by their heavenly Father. And, you are freer even than the lilies of the field who neither toil nor spin and yet are arrayed more than Solomon in all of his glory. This is similar to Jesus’ teaching, “He who is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” You either belong to God in Jesus, or, well, you don’t. But, if you don’t belong to God in Jesus, don’t bother kidding yourself that are free. Indeed, apart from Christ is the worst kind of slavery, even death.
St. Paul has words for you today about what it means, and what it looks like, to walk by the Spirit, to have the Lord as your Master, to be a slave of Christ. You must have a spirit of gentleness towards all, especially your brothers and sisters in Christ, bearing each other’s burdens, tolerating, enduring, and even suffering each other’s boorish behavior and annoying idiosyncrasies. You must seek to restore a brother who is enmeshed in sin, showing him mercy and compassion and forgiveness, keeping watch yourself that you are not tempted. You must be humble, for we are all slaves together under the same Master, members of the same body, brothers and sisters sharing the same Life and Breath, and “if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Let your work be of and for the Spirit, doing good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Herein St. Paul describes the life of the Christian – you are an extension of Christ to others in this world, His hands, His heart, His voice, to the glory of His Father.
But, in your life and in your labors, do not worry and do not be anxious, for the Lord is working with you, and in you, and through you that you will be fruitful, having enough for yourself and abundantly more to give to others. Therefore, do not permit mammon – the world and your flesh – to distract you from the task at hand and the one thing needful, but in faith, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” This is especially important to remember at this time of the year, even this very day, as children return to school, vacations are over and you return to your busy, work-a-day lives – remember what is the purpose and meaning of your work and your striving: Are you sowing to your own flesh, or are you sowing to the Spirit? Further, has the fruit of your labors become the thing in which you place your fear, your love, and your trust – the thing that you worry about having enough of and are anxious of losing? If so, then repent; return to the Lord in contrition, asking forgiveness. He will restore you and give to you and bless you that you might be a blessing to others, always, to the glory of His holy Name.
But now, come and receive of His gracious plenteousness. Be still and let the Lord work for you. He is present to pour into your lap a good measure, shaken together, pressed down, running over – His grace, mercy, love, and compassion in Jesus Christ. Come, eat and be satisfied. Come, drink and be renewed. The Lord feeds you with wholesome food and clothes you with His righteousness. He blesses you, that you might be a blessing – and you are.
In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.