Sometimes a particular portion of Scripture will come along just when you need it. This text was one of those times for me. Amidst all the cares and concerns of life, and all its changes and chances, Jesus took the time to come to me personally through His Word and encourage me: Don’t worry! It was refreshing and comforting for my spirit. We know that this isn’t a coincidence; it’s the work of God’s Spirit through His Word, applying it to the hearts of His children and leading us into all truth. Truly the Spirit is the Comforter.
The challenge with this sermon was to emphasize how Jesus cares for our physical needs, while still not losing sight of the spiritual needs He has met for us. So many preachers nowadays end up just preaching a material gospel — God wants you to be rich, right now! God wants you to have all the good things that this world has to offer, because He loves you! That’s a half truth at best. The real truth is that God has promised that we will have our bodily needs met, and that He has given us eternal treasure in heaven. We may or may not be prosperous in this world, but those ups and downs don’t matter because the Bible does not teach that God’s favor is tied to outward worldly or affluence, as the prosperity gospel maintains. God’s favor is found in Christ — in His Son who took on human flesh to save you and who bestows all His benefits through faith in Him. It is found in the message of Holy Scripture, which teaches us of our heavenly Father’s love and justice; in the word of absolution spoken by the pastor; in the water of Holy Baptism that washes away sin; and in the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper that is more than bread and wine — it’s where Jesus promises to be present with His full self for our forgiveness and strengthening. If you want to know if God loves you or what His opinion is of you now, look to those things, not to your 401(k) or your last vacation or the kind of car you drive or your feelings or anything else about yourself.
Many people focus on Jesus’ words about worry beginning at v.25, but including v.24 in the reading was eye-opening. Of course that verse is there ahead of Jesus’ words addressing worry, but many times people don’t always read the verses around the verses that they’re interested in. If you ever wonder about a particular passage of Scripture, make sure to read the verses around it, and you’ll be surprised at how many apparent difficulties evaporate when the context of a given verse or verses is given its due.
The NIV’s rendering of v.34 is perfectly adequate, but I still am fond of the KJV’s rendering, just for the sheer poetry: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” He cares even for the birds and the wildflowers — how much He must love us!
This text was another chance to preach the gospel from another angle — not just “Jesus died on the cross and you’re forgiven.” As wonderful a message as that is, there’s a lot more depth or many more facets to the flawless diamond that is the good news, and I wanted to bring in some of those other facets this time — specifically, how the fact of Jesus’ incarnation ties in with God’s providence for us. Sometimes fatigue or lack of time can lead a preacher to fall into a rut in the words and phrases he uses, but there’s certainly no reason why this has to be the case. I want to avoid that wherever I can. God’s people deserve better, and the gospel holds more for them.
May Jesus bless you through His Word, and free you from all worry.
“No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money. 25 Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (matt 6.24-34 niv)
Let’s play a little game of complete the phrase. When I say, “Don’t worry,” you think….. “Be happy”, right? That’s a song: “Don’t worry, be happy…” Most of us probably smile when we hear that song. We might even hum along. Then the song is over and we go right back to worrying! Why is that? Worry can give us headaches and sour stomachs. It can steal our sleep and wind our days up in a tight little spiral of fretting, going round and round and never really getting anywhere. It can rule our days and wreck our nights, if we let it. Yet it’s always there. Today Jesus reminds us how pointless worry is. He’s going to expose our worry for what it is. He’s also going to give us the antidote for all our worries, both in this life and the next. Let’s listen and see how Christ banishes worry.
Before we get to worry itself, Jesus backs us up a step. He takes us to the root of the worry. “No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.” Jesus warns us that there can only be one master at a time. Either we love and serve God, or we love and serve money. Right away we might have a problem with that. Someone might protest, “I don’t serve money! I love God first. Besides, I need money to live. It’s hard to make it without money. It’s essential.”
I’m willing to bet that few of us here today would say that we love and serve money above God. None of us would say it that flatly. But Jesus points out the subtle temptation that money poses to our flesh: to add on something in what we love and trust. We can easily tell ourselves, “I still love God – but I need this money, I need to make more money; how can I do that?” We fool ourselves by thinking that we can make money almost as high a priority as God, or a priority alongside God, and still keep God first. Anything placed on the same plane as God in our hearts will, in time, pull our sinful hearts toward it and away from God. Given an even choice between God and something else – even if it’s money, which can be necessary – our flesh gravitates toward the something else. You can bet on it. Pretty soon we begin to think about how we can serve money, in a sense.
I’m not saying that if you have more than one job you’re automatically in love with money. I don’t presume to know your family’s finances. Everything costs more these days and wages don’t always keep up. What I am saying is what Jesus says: Beware of fooling yourself by thinking you can have more than one master. Everybody serves somebody or something, and you can only have one master at a time. Make sure that yours is Christ, the Son of the living God, and not dead money, which just sits there in your bank account like an empty idol.
Once we understand the roots of worry, then Jesus begins to teach us about worry. Specifically, He focuses on worry about food and clothes. Jesus is talking about the necessities here – which is only fitting. Most of us don’t worry about luxuries we can’t afford. We might indulge in a little greed while we’re daydreaming at times, but that’s another topic for another time.
Jesus reminds us of several things about worry. First, it doesn’t do any good! “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” We act like our worrying accomplishes so much! We worry industriously, night and day, as if our worrying makes us younger, healthier, and better looking (often the opposite is true!); as if our worrying puts food in the fridge, funds in our checking account, new clothes in our closets; as if by worrying alone spring will come, cancer will be cured, mountains will be moved, the Twins will win in the playoffs, and all the world’s problems will be solved. Not true! Worry doesn’t actually fix anything. It won’t make your boss give you more hours. It won’t lower your costs or increase your profits. It won’t pay your bills or give you that elusive sense of security. It won’t protect you from bad weather or bad people or bad luck or anything else we dread. It won’t salve your conscience or forgive your sins. So why do we do it?
We forget about God. Not that He exists, but that He is our Father, that He loves us with an everlasting love, and that He’s promised to care for us. We live like we’re on our own and we have no God to care for us – no hell below us, above us only sky, as John Lennon foolishly sang. That’s how the devil wants you to live. That’s your flesh wants to live, because when you live like that, you’re really trying not to have anything to do with God. Worry is one of the ugly fruits that grows out of unbelief.
But let’s go back and look at this again — this time from God’s perspective, not that of our flesh. Would God create you and give you a body that’s so fearfully and wonderfully made, and then let you starve to death? No! Would God knit you together in your mother’s womb, choose each part of you that makes you you, bring you into this world, give life to your limbs, and then forget to clothe you? No! Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Well, I guess it’s possible, although highly unlikely. No mother who’s any sort of mother would forget she has a child, if she got at least thirty minutes of sleep the night before. Yet the Lord says, “Even if she forgets – highly unlikely, although she could – though she may forget, I will not forget you!” I never let you out of my sight! You are mine! I love you!
If you want further proof that God loves you and will take care of you, think about this: Jesus didn’t take on the form of a bird. He didn’t choose to enter this world as a flower. No, Jesus chose to take on the form of a servant, like we have. He chose to be made man. Jesus took on the form of a human, to redeem us humans from the power of the devil. Jesus wanted to live in this world just like we do, and to die just like we do, to give us everything we need: God’s forgiveness, love, and mercy. He died and rose again to free us from worry, forever — to win us back from the power of Satan to God, and to make us rich forever with every spiritual blessing in Him. If He does all that for you, don’t you think He’ll find it in His heart of love to make sure that you eat every day, that you’re warm when it’s cold, that you have a roof over your head? Of course He will. He will never forget you nor forsake you. God knows that you have bodily needs. He’s the one who created you, and He won’t act like only spiritual things matter. He sent His Son in the flesh so that you would be redeemed, body and soul. He promises to give you everything you need to keep your body and life. How could He not, when He loves you so much? How could you worry, when you think about love like that, so constant and so rich?
Instead of spending time worrying, can I make a suggestion? Use that time for something more constructive. Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these other things you need will be added to you as well. You won’t ever lack for your body, but don’t forget your soul either. Fill up on the Bread of Life. Hear and study God’s Word gladly. Feast your soul on its delights. God’s Word is a food that gives a greater hunger for it, even as it satisfies you. Nothing else conveys God’s will and His comfort to you like His Word. It’s the ultimate comfort food, you might say.
God promises that everybody gets to eat, but God’s righteousness is a lot harder to come by. Many are called, but few are chosen. Make every effort to make your calling and election sure. Grow and thrive in the faith God has planted in you – and don’t worry. Christ has banished all worry, now and forever. Leave the worry in tomorrow, where it never gets here, because Christ your Lord has promised to take care of you, and that will never change. Amen.