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Sermon for Trinity 15
Galatians 5:25-6:10 + Matthew 6:24-34
Where is your next meal going to come from? That’s probably a question you haven’t had to deal with in quite some time, right? Maybe at some point in your life. But which of you has no food in the fridge, or in the pantry? Which of you has no money in the bank or in the stock market or under the mattress? Which of you is living paycheck to paycheck? Or, if you are, is it to fund basic things like food, clothing and shelter, or is to fund a lifestyle you’ve gotten used to, or future plans—not evening knowing for certain that there will be a future?
And that’s really where we’re at, I think. I have all that I need for today. But what about tomorrow’s meals? And by “tomorrow” I mean, the rest of my life and the life of my children and the life of my children’s children. Do you worry about such things? If so, ask yourself, why?
There are two competing ideas among the people of the world with regard to where my next meal is going to come from. There’s an entitlement, welfare mentality that says, my meals for tomorrow are going to come from you. You’re going to make sure that I’m well-fed, sheltered, clothed, have decent health care, and maybe much more than that. You and everyone around you are going to see to it, by force of law. So hand over your money so that I can eat. I’m entitled to it for one reason: I’m a human being. I exist, therefore I should be fed and taken care of by my fellow human beings.
Call that socialism. Call it communism. Call it extortion. Or just call it by its Biblical name: coveting, and then, stealing. Breaking the Ninth Commandment, and then the Seventh. Setting your heart on your neighbor’s wealth and giving it a guise of godliness, an outward appearance of lawfulness. But it’s godless. It’s wicked. It’s a damnable sin to set your heart on your neighbor’s wealth and to claim it as your own. (And notice, I’m not saying that receiving welfare is a sin. The sin is setting your heart on your neighbor’s wealth, as if it ought to be yours.)
Now, before you shout Amen! to that, there’s also the opposite idea people have about where my next meal is going to come from. It’s going to come…from me! No one’s going to help me, except for me. It all depends on me. Me and my ingenuity. Me and my hard work. Me and my plans and my decisions and my bright ideas.
But that’s godless, too, isn’t it? (And notice, I’m not saying that working hard is godless. Not at all! But trusting in your hard work to provide for your tomorrow—that’s idolatry.
Take both mentalities—the welfare mentality and the hard work mentality—and see that, in the end, they’re the same. Where is my tomorrow’s meal going to come from? It’s going to come from money, from mammon, from wealth, whether it’s your hard-earned income or whether it’s mine. If I’m going to eat, money will have to provide. And both mentalities end with the same result, don’t they? Worry. What if I can’t get you to feed me and provide health care for me? Or, what if I can’t provide for myself, in spite of all my hard work? Well, try harder, right? Throw a tantrum and get the politicians on my side to force you to do it. Or search and search and search until I find a job for myself that will provide for me, and then hope that it lasts, that it doesn’t disappoint me tomorrow.
But what does Jesus say to that godless way of life? No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and mammon—wealth. If you live to get money, you can’t serve God. And if you live to serve God, you can’t serve wealth.
But I need money to live! I need food! I need clothes! (And I want so much more than that, too!)
God knows that. He isn’t ignorant of your needs, nor is He unconcerned about you. Quite the opposite. And that’s the point of our Gospel. You don’t need money to live. You need God to live—the One who created you and all things, who gave you your eyes, ears, and all your members, your reason and all your senses. He’s still the one who preserves them by richly and daily providing clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and yard, land, cattle, and all that you have—with all that you need to sustain your body and life.
More importantly, God is the One who has redeemed you, not with gold or silver, not with mammon, but with the holy, precious blood of His Son and with His innocent suffering and death. More than that, God is the One who, by His Holy Spirit, has adopted you by calling you by the Gospel, enlightening you with His gifts, sanctifying you in the covenant-waters of Holy Baptism where He washed away all your sins, made you His child, and committed Himself to your temporal and eternal welfare. See! You don’t need to serve money in order to live. What you need to live…is divine welfare.
Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? The answer is, yes you are. You’re more valuable than any animal. Each of you is worth more than all the animal-life on earth put together, because God made man in His own image, and though that image has been damaged in all of us beyond repair, God chose to redeem us, to bring us to faith in His Son, to justify us by faith, and to recreate His image in all of His believing children—the New Man who is being daily renewed by His Holy Spirit, who dwells in you as His own holy temple. So, yes, you’re more valuable than the birds. And if they are the recipients of divine welfare, you most certainly will be. So don’t worry about tomorrow’s meals.
Why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? See, you’re more valuable than grass! More valuable than flowers. If God adds beauty to the things that only last for a day or for a moment—without any work or worry on their part—won’t He find a way to cover up your body, since He redeemed your body, and washed your body in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and has filled it with His Holy Spirit and has promised to raise it from the dead to live with Him forever? So don’t worry about clothing.
Food and clothing are representative of all the needs of the body—daily bread, as Jesus calls it in the Lord’s Prayer, which includes everything that pertains to the needs and sustenance of the body, such as food, drink, clothes, shoes, house, yard, land, cattle, money, property, a godly spouse, godly children, godly servants, godly and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, discipline, honor, good friends, trustworthy neighbors, and the like.
As Jesus says, your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. You see, divine welfare is already a given. So instead of spending your time and your energy running after tomorrow’s meals, instead of worrying about tomorrow, Jesus directs the children of God to His kingdom and His righteousness. What does that mean?
It means, let God’s kingdom’s fill your thoughts and drive your efforts. Not that you work your way into God’s kingdom. But the things that brought you into God’s kingdom in the first place—hearing the Word of God as it is preached and receiving His Sacraments—are also the things that keep you there. Seek those things first, before worrying about your job or about tomorrow’s needs.
And the righteousness of God—that becomes yours by faith in Christ Jesus, so that you stand righteous before God all the time. But it also refers to leading holy lives here on earth. Seek first to keep God’s commandments, to do God’s will, and don’t let worry for tomorrow’s meals get in the way of that. Seeking God’s righteousness may even mean you lose your job, or even more than that. Learn to say, “That’s OK.” The money you earn doesn’t provide for you. God’s provides for you. Christians are to live on divine welfare.
If that hurts your pride, then repent of your pride and recognize that you are not worthy of any of the good things you have. They are all gifts of grace.
On the other hand, some people, would try to abuse that divine welfare system, thinking, “I’m on divine welfare! That means I don’t have to work!” But that’s also wrong. God says, through the apostle Paul, “If a man will not work, let him not eat.” Working is part of seeking God’s righteousness, one of the things God has given us to do. You see, you’re not working hard for food. You’re working hard for God. You’re working because God has called you to work, whether at a job that makes money or whether it’s working as a father, mother, etc. You’re working, not to have food for yourself, but to serve God. And He will likely use your hard work as a means of providing for you, so that you not only have enough for yourself and your family, but also have money with which to help others, and maybe, according to His grace, enough left over to have some nice things for yourself, too. But even if you work hard your whole life, a Christian must always remain on divine welfare, because if not, you’re back to serving mammon. And no one can serve two masters.
Take the warning Jesus offers today in the Gospel not to depend on yourself or on other men for tomorrow’s meals. Take the warning not to distrust the God who has made Himself your Father by uniting you to the Lord Christ. And most of all, take the comfort Jesus offers here, to know God as a good and caring Father who would never think of abandoning you in any time of need. He hasn’t yet, and He never will. He will see to your well-being. He will see to your welfare. Trust in Him, not in your wealth. With wealth comes worry. But under God’s divine welfare plan, there’s never a need to worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow, like today, is in your Father’s hands, and He cares for you. In the name of Jesus. Amen.