Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Ever since Easter, we’ve been spending some time together taking a look at Matthew 6. This chapter contains the second part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. The entire point of this Sermon is to answer the question, “what does it mean to live in the Kingdom of God?” Or, as we might put it, “what does it mean to be a Christian?” The first three weeks, Jesus gave one answer using three examples. Being a Christian means living with integrity- that your heart is involved with your actions. This means giving money away- not to be seen by others, not to make yourself feel good, not to get your name in the bulletin, but because you have faith that no matter how much or little money you have, God is in control. It means praying- not to be seen by others, not to make yourself sound extra-holy, or super-good, not to try to weasel what you want out of God, but because you have faith that God listens to and answers your prayers because He loves you. It means maybe even fasting- not to be seen by others, not because it puts you in any special standing with God, not to try to manipulate God into doing what you want, but because you have faith that skipping a meal to spend time in prayer will draw you closer to God and demonstrate to yourself that God alone provides all you need in life.
Last week, we heard Jesus give another answer to that question, “what does it mean to be a Christian?” It means wholeheartedly serving God and Him alone. You can’t serve two masters both Jesus and… fill in the blank. It just doesn’t work. Because eventually, you’ll end up loving one and hating the other. The two will come in conflict and more often than not, we choose the thing that is not God. We put money, a family, sexuality, a career, even leisure in front of God, pushing Him to the back seat or even out of the car entirely. Being a Christian means that your entire life is lived only in service to God. All of who you are, whatever identity markers you place on yourself, all of must be in submission to Jesus. If it’s not, get rid of it.
Today, Jesus continues His teaching on what it means to live in the Kingdom of Heaven- what it means to be a Christian. A follower of Jesus trusts in God alone. He doesn’t worry about food. She doesn’t worry about clothes. They don’t worry even about life itself. A Christian trusts in God alone. He will provide all that we need. And that’s a problem for us.
We live in a culture that lives for anxiety. They’ll claim that they hate anxiety, or worry, or busyness as they may call it, but they relish it all the same. It’s like that one girl in high school or college that says she hates drama, but is the most dramatic person you’ll ever meet. Our world is anxious about money, anxious about food, anxious about fashion, anxious about politics, anxious about safety, anxious about health, anxious about death, anxious about anything and everything people think about. If you’re not anxious about the world, just turn on the news, and the anchor will work his or her tail off to make you worry. Search the internet with one or two health problems and you can convince yourself that you’re going to die in the next two days from some rare disease. You want to try to be healthy, but it seems that everyone tells you something different. They’re right, everyone else is wrong, and here’s why. Everywhere you turn, there’s another voice calling out trying to make you anxious.
But if you listen closely, there is one voice calling out that you may want to listen to. It often gets drowned out in the cacophony we live in, but it’s still there. “Do not be anxious about your life.” In this world of ever-increasing anxiety, Jesus’ call to not worry is shocking, offensive, and just way too simplistic for our liking. And yet, this is Jesus’ answer to our question. Being a Christian, living the way God would have you, means not worrying about anything.
It gets to the heart of what worry is and why it’s such a problem. Anxiety exposes our fears. If you’re afraid of going hungry, you’re going to worry about food. If you’re afraid of how you look to others, you’re going to worry about clothing. If you’re afraid of death, you’re going to worry about each and every health issue that might pop up. We don’t like to call a thing what it is, but our anxieties are nothing but thinly veiled fears that have become socially acceptable, even expected.
It’s even more important to recognize our anxieties as fears because of what that means for us in our relationship with God. Tell me your greatest fear, and I’ll tell you your biggest idol. What you are afraid of most shows who your god really is. Are you afraid of how others look at you? Then your self-image might be your god. Are you afraid of losing your spouse? Then they might be an idol for you. Are you afraid of going broke? If so, then money might be your god. Are you afraid of what a politician might say or do? Then politics has become an idol to you. Our worries expose our fears expose our idols.
This is why listening to Jesus’ call to you is so important. “Do not be anxious.” Don’t worry about your life, about what you’ll eat or what you’ll drink, or about what you’ll wear. Our God knows what we need and will provide all that we need. And if not, then God’s still in control and is the only one who can and will provide for us. When we let other fears and worries get in the way of our faith and trust of God, then we have an idolatry problem.
In our Book Club reading for today from A.D. 30, some of the characters interact with today’s teaching from Jesus, “Will a husband give you security? No! Will food save you from suffering? No! Will wealth save you from death? No! Nothing on earth will offer you salvation from the storms of this age or the next.” Nothing that we tend to worry about or fret over can actually do anything about any of our deepest fears or desires, but that doesn’t stop us from worrying about them. We argue over things that don’t matter, we fight about things that we can’t change, we’re anxious about things that are in God’s control. What else is that but a lack of faith?
We get so caught up with the immediate, with what we see and interact with from day to day, the physical reality that’s before us, that we quickly lose sight of what’s really important. It doesn’t matter who’s in office- God is still King over all creation. It doesn’t matter if you get sick- the worst thing that can happen to you as a Christian is that you die and are with Jesus; that sounds like a good thing to me. This present world is passing away. Yes, we are called to live in it, to interact with it to care for it, and to do what we can to improve it. But don’t be mistaken, this world is not all that there is. There is more going on than our eyes can see. If all the spiritual world was visible, I think our minds might very well explode with all the understanding we would gain.
In the meantime, as Christians, followers of Jesus, those living in the Kingdom of God, put your trust in God alone. Don’t worry about food or clothes, or even about your life. God has always and will always provide for you. It’s incredibly frustrating and can easily become worrisome when that care and provision don’t come this side of heaven, but that’s the name of the game right now. We live in a fallen world, a world where hunger, fighting, and death have their way. But we know that God has defeated these things through Jesus’ own death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. In Christ, there is no need to worry about anything in this life. God, your Father, provides for you.
That’s what makes Jesus words this morning not condemning law, but a gracious invitation. Don’t worry about your life. Instead, trust your God. With Him, we have all we need. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Lobe den Herrn
B. A. Woell