Trinity 15 – Matthew 6:24ff – September 3rd and 4th
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
“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 money.” You cannot serve God and “Mammon,” (as the old King James puts it) - the stuff of this life, earthly power and wealth. Why? Because the Lord your God is a jealous God, and He does not want to share your affections with another, and He knows that your eye will wander if He lets you. Because mammon and money is a greedy and tyrannical god, always demanding more and more of you, more of your time, more of your efforts. As often happens in the Scriptures two paths, two ways of living, are set before us. There is the way of life – the life lived in simple joy at being one of God’s redeemed servants, knowing that your Master well provides for you. Then there is the way of death – where your days are spent ever filled with toil and effort to get more and more, days ever filled with worry and doubt and despair.
I’m sure you recognize both of these. I’m sure that there isn’t a one of us in this room who hasn’t had sleepless nights worrying about what tomorrow will bring. I’m sure there’s not a one of us who hasn’t been worried about how small the number in the bank account was, or hasn’t just been sure that if we didn’t get the newest and latest and greatest doo-hickey or doo-dad that we just wouldn’t be happy. We live in America, and the god that our country truly worships is Mammon, is money, is worldly power and might – where our heroes are all multi-millionaires, where “reality” tv shows lives that none of us have; where every form of entertainment is interrupted with commercials telling us what we need to buy to make our life complete. Satan, our old evil foe, is constantly stirring up discontent and dissatisfaction with what we have – using money and wealth and stuff to rob us of our joy, of our contentment, of our peace. We are not immune to this.
Dear friends in Christ, while you are not immune to these temptations, these temptations do not define you. Even as the world calls out to you, even as money and wealth and power seek to dominate your life, may I remind you of a truth? Money is not your master, for you are baptized. When you were baptized, when God claimed you by water and the Word, He said that you are His and He is yours. This is important to remember at all times – while as a Christian you are in the world, you are not of this world. While you live your life here surrounded by all the trappings of wealth and power, they do not define you, they do not control you. You are rather one of God’s own children, you are part of His family, He is your Lord - and because you are His servant – wealth, money, earthly power – these things are not your masters, but rather they are simply tools which God gives to you to use in His service as He wills. Whether the bank account is full or empty – you belong to Christ – and you use what He gives you in love for your neighbor, for you know that your true home is not of this world, for Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. Indeed, remembering that you belong to Christ is the key to understanding the rest of our Gospel lesson.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life….” There are two ways in which one might hear these next words of Christ. One might hear them as utterly crushing law – Jesus said I shouldn’t worry, but I do, oh I’m lousy – oh, see how enslaved I am to money and wealth, I am terrible, I stink on ice. Well, probably – if you see your sin, I’m not going to argue against you. I see my own sin quite often, and I know I’m only scratching the surface thereof – we are sinful to the core. But Christ Jesus is not trying to drop the hammer on you with these words. It is true, you cannot serve two masters… and then Jesus says, “Therefore, I tell you”. If Jesus is speaking to you, if He is the one who tells you how things are, if you are listening to Him… that means He is your Master. The rest of this passage, the rest of the Gospel Lesson is simply your Lord telling you, promising you that He will care for you – it is a tour de force of His love and compassion. Your Master speaks to you now, and He tells you how He Himself cares for you.
“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?” Christ Jesus your Lord knows how Satan works, knows how the devil tries to stir up fear and doubt – Satan was fool enough to try these very temptations upon Christ – here, Jesus, turn stone to bread; here Jesus, if you just worship me You’ll get all the glory and wondrous clothing you could wish for. Jesus knows how Satan attacks you, how the Devil loves to make you fret about this life, about having enough. Your Master tells you that you need not worry about this – that when Satan comes around and whispers worry in your ear, you have God’s own authority to tell him to be gone. For your life is more than food, and your body is more than clothing. Today, our Lord provides for you His holy Supper. Is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper simply to give you a snack to strengthen your body? Far from it – it is the True Body and Blood of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, given and shed for you for the remission of your sins, for eternal life and salvation. Your life is more than just these brief days upon this earth – you are joined to Christ Jesus, part of His Body, and thus you will be with Him forever in the New Heavens and the New Earth. And as you approach your Master’s table today – how do you come? You come as one who is baptized, clothed in Christ's righteousness - your clothes now might fall apart and fade – what of that – for you have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and even should you die, should your body be placed in the ground, your Master will call you forth on the Last day and clothe your risen and perfected body for all eternity.
With these words, Christ Jesus your Lord is telling you that you have life and salvation in Him – that this is the highest reality of your existence – and so when Satan comes around with his temptations – Satan can go stick it, he has nothing to do with you, for you belong to Christ. That’s the point of the rest of the passage. “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you of not more value than they?” Of course you are – you are one for whom Christ Jesus came down from heaven to redeem and save. If God cares for the birds for their time on earth, will He not care for you and give you what you need for your days – and more than that, will He not bring you unto His everlasting kingdom? “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Quite the opposite – stress and worry harm us – so Jesus reminds you to be calm, to rest secure in Him. He is your God and you are His child – He has already promised you ever lasting life, and you can’t get longer than that. “And why are you anxious about clothing. Consider the lilies of the field, how they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But 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?” Again, the promise is shown by comparison. You are valuable to God – He has paid the price of His dear Son for you – do you think that He, having purchased you, would then not care for you? Hardly – He provides you what you need for this life and the life of the world to come.
This is your reality – that you are cared for by God. So what does this mean, how does this shape your life now? “Therefore do not be anxious, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and Your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” The world is full of fear, for that terrible and cruel master of this world, money, Mammon, power, desires and delights in terror and fear and worry. Your Lord here pulls you away from that. Examine your thoughts – and when they are worldly focused, when Satan’s fears and temptations start influencing your thoughts, pause and say, “This is not who I am – I am Christ’s own Child – He cares for me.” As a Christian, you see this life differently than the rest of the world – and Christ reminds you of this. This is a tool for you, a self-diagnostic if you will. When you start thinking too much like the rest of the world, pause, repent, and be focused again upon the promises of Christ.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.” Again – be wary here. Do not fall into a false prosperity gospel – don’t fall into what the TV preachers sell you here. This isn’t the secret Christian way of becoming rich and powerful – who cares about Mammon? You aren’t a Christian in order to sucker God out of more stuff. Besides, our Lord then says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” In this life, as long as you are in this sinful world – there will be struggles and trials and difficulties. As a Christian, you are opposed to Satan and power, and thus Satan and power will hound you. Because of this, because the world will give you no rest – Christ calls you here to this place, to seek out His Kingdom, to seek the place where He rules, to seek out His righteousness and forgiveness. He is your Lord, you will have what you need – and when you are focused upon Christ, you will realize this, you will see this, you will know that the Lord does provide. Not “wealth” and “mammon” as the world craves, not more and more than your neighbors so you can show them how great you are and to bring them to heel – those are the promises of the false god of money. No, God will provide for you what you need – and what you truly, truly need is His righteousness and His kingdom. And because you are His own Baptized Child, because you have been called out of the world unto His Kingdom, unto His House, because you are forgiven and His beloved, life everlasting is yours in His Name. Remember this, especially as the world and wealth try to rob you of your peace – Christ Jesus is your Master, and He gives you His peace. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +