Seminarian Brian Johnston, Vicar
+ In the Name of Jesus +
In our world today, we are encouraged to always be thinking about tomorrow. What will the future look like? What are we going to do about the future? The natural result is that people start planning tomorrow out to achieve what they desire. But all of us know what happens when you make a plan and things are set in motion, Murphy’s Law ends up throwing us a curveball that we were not expecting. It doesn’t take much for the entire plan to fall apart. And when that happens we start to become anxious and worried if the outcome that we desire would ever come.
Yet, despite the despair of not being sure that we will get what we want, we still try to see the plan through anyway. We hear it time and again from politicians and in movies and television shows that nothing will get in our way between us and what we desire. This adds another layer of anxiety cloaked in a righteous disguise of determination and perseverance. This is what our culture and society pushes for. They push for determination, stress, and anxiety so that you can obtain the treasure of your heart.
Just before the text of our Gospel reading for today, Jesus explains to those listening to his sermon on the mount that where one’s treasure is, one’s heart will be also. He also mentions how our eyes cause us to lust after things of this world. This makes the first verse of our Gospel reading the connecting verse to the previous text. Jesus says that, “No one is able to serve two lords. For he will either hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matt. 6:24).” Jesus is telling us that we cannot have two lords. To put it another way, we cannot have two gods. There is only one God. And mammon ain’t it.
Too often we lust after what we can see. And the things that we see are the needs of this life. Food, drink, house, home, clothes, a pay raise or winning the lottery, a new car, a spouse. All these things are needs that we want. We chase after them, setting aside the things like our daily devotions. Fathers in pursuit of mammon fail to teach their household the scriptures. Because of our service to mammon we fail to be parents to our children and husbands and wives to our spouse by spending too much time away from home. We work the extra 20 hours during the week when it is not absolutely necessary. We are anxious about paying the bills because we are living pay check to pay check. Or maybe it’s even seeking companionship so that we don’t feel like we are alone. This is all mammon, possessions. And yet we serve these things with our thoughts and actions because they are the desires of our eye and hearts. Our sinful nature causes us to put our service to God aside so that we can serve mammon, and a symptom of serving mammon is anxiety.
Jesus teaches us about our service to mammon by having us learn from creation. Man was created to lord over creation, and yet, now, in our fallen state, we must learn from it. We have to learn not to be anxious, NOT to make mammon our lord, by looking to the birds of the air. “The birds of the air do not sow or reap or gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them (Matt 6:26).” The birds of the air do not make their food their lord. They are not anxious about their next meal. Rather they are content with the food that they’re heavenly Father has given them. They receive what they need for that day. As for us, we are not content with what only God has given, but we go out of our way to get more because we believe that what God has given is not enough. We worry about what we will eat not only for today, but tomorrow. We store up more than enough for a week, or sometimes longer all at one time. And when we know that there is a crisis on the horizon, like tornadoes or hurricanes, we store up even more.
“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life (Matt. 6:27)?” When we get a diagnosis in the hospital, particularly one that is seen to be a life threatening diagnosis, such as cancer, being anxious or stressing over it does not change the diagnosis. Being anxious about it is not going to cause the tumor to go away. Our days on this earth are numbered. Our time is set by the Father. Being anxious and thinking that we have any control over such things is essentially pointless because we cannot add time onto our life. Likewise, being anxious for your loved one who is sick or injured does not add to the time of their life.
Jesus also has us “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet…even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these (Matt. 6:28-29).” So why are we anxious? Clearly, God clothes the grass of the field, so he will not also clothe us? Do we not believe that God, who is the giver of all good things, will give us “our daily bread?”
There are a couple of reasons why we are anxious. First is that we do not fear, love, and trust God above all things. We are anxious because we think that God does not care about us. We think he won’t give us anything, nor has anything to do with this world. We are deists according to our old sinful nature. In other words, anxiousness is a sign of unbelief. Secondly, because the old Adam still lives in us, we enslave ourselves to mammon. We turn to the things of this world and think that they matter. We work for them, scheming and planning to get them in a way which appears right, thinking that they work for us. We think that they do not have the power to draw us away from Christ. Oh, how we are deceived, we “of little faith.”
“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,” God says in the Proverbs [12:25], “But a good word makes him glad.” Today we have a good word from Jesus. In fact it is the only word that can give gladness, comfort, and peace to you in the midst of your anxiety, pain, and troubles when you make mammon your lord. There is another Lord, a Lord who didn’t come to be served, but to serve. While we serve mammon and the false gods that go with mammon, there is another Lord that has come and served us. It is the same Lord, our heavenly Father, who takes care of the birds of the air, who gives us our life, and clothes the grass of the field. He is the giver of all things, and he knows our every need. He sees us as more valuable than the birds of the air and the grass of the field. He asks two questions in our Gospel for today that assume a positive response. “Are you not of more value than they (Matt. 6:26)?” and, “Will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith (Matt. 6:30)?” The answer to both of these questions is a definite, “Yes!” because the Lord cares about the very being of your existence and your body. He cares because he created you, your body and soul, and all your members. You are made in his image. He cares because he is your father. He does so out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in you.
It is for this reason that he has sent his Son to be crucified for you. He takes on your service to mammon in his temptation in the wilderness. However, he does not succumb to its enticement, but overcomes it for you! His desire is for you. He laments for you with the words, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…How often would I have gathered your children together (Matt. 23:37).” He takes on distress, an incredibly high anxiety, for you in the Garden of Gethsemane. And just before he prays for you on your behalf in the high priestly prayer he says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” Jesus has overcome the world. He is not in service to them. And in Him you have peace. In him you are no longer in service to mammon, but in service to your Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, you have no need to be anxious.
You have no need to be anxious because all your needs of body and soul are given to you in Christ. God the Father knows the needs of your body and he will certainly provide them because he has provided for the needs of your soul. In your baptism, you came out wearing a white robe of Christ’s righteousness. In the Lord’s Supper, we eat Christ’s body and blood in, with, and under the bread and the wine. There is no question as to what the Christian wears, eats, and drinks because they are given freely for the benefit of the Christian to sustain him in faith. These are the things that Christians seek first. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33).”
And likewise, all of your physical needs of the body are added to you. These are all first article gifts. As Luther says in the small catechism, “He also gives you clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals and all you have. He richly and daily provides you with all that you need to support your body and life. He defends you against all danger and guards and protects you from all evil. All this He does out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in you.”
“Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matt. 6:34).” Notice in this last verse Jesus does not say that the day will not have any troubles. Instead, he assures us that in the day we will have trouble. In this life, we will worry and be anxious. We will find ourselves serving mammon, and make it lord. But those are times that are given to remind us to repent and turn in faith to Christ, to pray, praise, and give thanks, even as we suffer anxiety and worse in our troubles. In times of trouble and anxiousness we are invited by our Lord to pray to Him. In Philippians 4[:6-7] God says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be known to God.
+ And may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” +