Sermon for Trinity 15
Deuteronomy 6:4-7 + Galatians 5:25-6:10 + Matthew 6:24-34
Jesus identifies an idol for us in today’s Gospel, the idol called Mammon. Money. Wealth. But the problem with Mammon isn’t what a lot of people today think it is. Oh, there are lots of wealth-related problems: Bribery. Greed. Extortion. Fraud. Stealing. Trampling your neighbor under your feet in order to get ahead. But the problem isn’t having wealth, even a lot of wealth. Money isn’t the root of all evil. But the love of it is, as St. Paul writes. And specifically, in our Gospel, the trust in it is the big problem.
As Jesus explains it, trust in money or wealth is behind most of the worrying we do, or at least the worrying we do about material things and financial things, which is what we’re focusing on today. Will I have enough food for tomorrow? Will I have clothes to wear tomorrow? What do I have to do to make sure I have enough food and clothing for tomorrow?
At least, that’s what the disciples of Jesus were worried about. But when was the last time you had that specific worry? We live in a strange time in world history, and in a strange place called America. When was the last time you worried about putting food on your table for the next day? When was the last time you worried about having clothes to wear tomorrow? Some people do worry about those things, but I think most of us spend more time worrying, not about tomorrow, or next week, but maybe a year from now, or five years, or 50. Because, well, we have enough of a cushion to see us through for at least a little while.
And, for that matter, I don’t think most of us worry about having enough to stay alive, but about having enough to maintain a standard of living—and even a comfortable standard of living that might include a bigger house than we need, or an extra car, or gourmet food, or many changes of clothing, or a cable bill, internet bill, cell phone bill, trips to the restaurant, a college fund, and other items that are nice to have, but not essential to life.
Now, don’t imagine that I’m shaming anyone for anything on that list. What I’m saying is this: if you find yourself worrying about things like that—standard of living things or things that you may not need for six months or for five or ten years, what would you do if you were truly living paycheck to paycheck just to fulfill your most basic needs of food and clothing for the next week, as many of Jesus’ disciples were in our Gospel? You would live in a state of continual panic. And so would I. Or at least, the faithless, idolatrous sinful flesh in us would be screaming at us to panic. To be anxious. To worry, pretty much all the time. How will we get the things we need for tomorrow? Or will we starve?
It’s that your flesh doesn’t trust God. Ever, from the moment you were conceived. It doesn’t trust God to know your needs or to provide for your needs or to care enough about you to provide for them. Your flesh won’t be satisfied until you have enough money to feel safe, enough wealth. But I’ll tell you a secret: there will never be enough money for that. Money is a poor master. The more you have, the more you need, the more you need, the more you worry about how much money you don’t have.
At times, your faith may be strong enough, that is, firmly resting on God’s faithful promises of love and fatherly providence and divine goodness, that you’re able to mostly drown out the voice of your unbelieving, idolatrous flesh. But at other times, faith becomes little, which means that God becomes little in your heart, in your thinking, and money starts to grow and take’s God’s place in your heart as that thing that you need so much, that thing that you trust in so much, that thing that, if you only had it, you would finally feel safe. What will you do to get it? What will you do if you don’t get it? That’s worry, fueled by a trust in faithless mammon.
You cannot serve both God and Mammon. So recognize the idol. Call it by name. And turn again to the true God, to your Father, who knew you in eternity, chose you to be His, sent His Son into our flesh, crucified Him to make atonement for your sins, raised Him from the dead, called you by the Gospel, adopted you in Holy Baptism, and committed Himself to see you safely through this earthly life, all the way into His heavenly house.
Do you want a sign that your Father will care for you and provide you with enough food so that you don’t have to worry? Look at the birds, Jesus says. They neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? It’s that last phrase that really offers comfort. God provides food for the birds. You are much more valuable than the birds to your Father in heaven. He didn’t send His Son to become a bird or to save the birds. The birds do not have eternal souls. But man was made in the image of God. Mankind has been redeemed by the blood of Christ. And you have been washed in that blood and brought into Christ’s Holy Catholic Church. So count on your Father to do much more for you than He does for the birds.
Do you want a sign that your Father will care for you and provide you with enough clothing so that you don’t have to worry? Consider the lilies, Jesus says. 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? The Lord rightly rebukes us for not trusting in Him to provide. Now, you can either take His rebuke and go sulk in a corner somewhere, or you can take His rebuke to heart and learn from Jesus’ words and turn to your Father in faith. As Jesus says in the book of Revelation, As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.
The Gentiles—the pagans, the heathen—run around searching for ways to provide for themselves, because they don’t have a Father like you do. But you who have a Father in heaven who has made you His sons through faith in Christ Jesus—to you Jesus says, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
What does it mean to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness? It means faith toward God and love toward your neighbor: faith that looks up to God with empty hands, ready to receive everything from Him, from the forgiveness of sins to the needs of your body; and love that is busy and active, that is anxious, not to provide for yourself or to serve yourself, but to serve your neighbor in his need. You want to worry about getting more money? OK. Just don’t worry about getting it for yourself. You’re taken care of, right? Worry instead about using money to help your neighbor with it.
All this has been said about worrying over money and financial needs. But it applies to your other worries as well—health worries, relationship worries, and whatever other things you think you need to worry about. You have a good and gracious Father who has promised to provide you with your daily bread and all that is included together with daily bread. Put your today and your tomorrows in His faithful hands, and let Him worry about it. Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Amen.