Fifteenth Sunday After Trinity October 1, 2000
433, 384, 425, 53
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. So far the Holy Word.
In Christ Jesus, Who doesn’t want us to waste our lives in a vain concern over things, Dear Fellow Redeemed,
“Not to worry!”—You’ve heard that phrase often enough. It’s intended to instill confidence, but sometimes it can have the opposite effect. “Not to worry!” says the dry-cleaner, as you show him your best suit, stained with ink from your ball point pen. “Not to worry!” says your teenager, as you hand him the keys to the car for the first time. “Not to worry!” says the banker, as you nervously submit your loan application.
At times of tension and anxiety in our lives, people are constantly telling us not to worry. How nice it would be if we could take that advice! Wouldn’t it be great if we never had to worry about making ends meet; if we could somehow be sure that, no matter what happened, everything would work out for the best; if we could easily wipe away our mistakes as soon as they happened! In our text for today, Jesus says that, depending on where you put your trust—that’s just the kind of life you can have! The Lord’s advice to you today—and the theme of this morning’s sermon—is—
I guess everyone knows that worrying about things is a waste of time. If you’re always fretting over every little problem, the stress will finally take its toll on you. People are always ready with a platitude like, “Oh, don’t worry—everything will turn out all right.” But that might not be true. If your trust is in the wrong place, you may indeed have very good reason to worry!
In our text today, Jesus says that No man can serve two masters… Ye cannot serve God and mammon. To see His point, we need to talk about just what He means by “mammon”. You may recall that we ran across this term in a sermon text a couple of months ago.
Now, if you’re thinking mammon means “money”, you’re only partly correct. It actually stems from an old Aramaic word which means, “wealth” or “profit.” Strictly speaking, your mammon is whatever you’ve got that’s above and beyond the bare necessities of life. It could be a savings account, real estate, a nice car, fashionable clothes, a big insurance policy, whatever. Just subtract every item that’s essential to staying alive, and what’s left is your mammon.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with wealth in itself. If God has blessed you with more than you need, it’s a reason to give thanks. But be careful you don’t put your trust in that mammon. Jesus speaks of unrighteous mammon when He says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” It’s really very simple: your trust is going somewhere, and that will either be in God, or in the things you possess. Your faith for tomorrow can either be placed in that nest egg you’ve been saving up, or in the promises of God. And if you trust in your material things, then you’ve got a lot to worry about.
For one thing, you never quite know how much mammon you’ll need, do you? I had an acquaintance who possessed a large stock portfolio; he had more than enough financial security—right up until October 19, 1987, that is—when the bottom fell out of the stock market and he lost everything. Many people now have “Individual Retirement Accounts”—IRA’s. For $50 a month now, they promise to pay you $1000 a month when you retire. That’s great—but who can say what $1000 will buy thirty years from now?
Besides that, Jesus says, “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” You might remember the Parable of the Rich Fool. Jesus told that story to show that material wealth is not the key to a happy future. Here was a successful farmer who built big new barns to accommodate his bumper crop. He saw all that mammon and said to himself: “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry.” With all his wealth, what could he possibly have to worry about? He set his heart on that wealth; he put his trust in it. But then, when he least expected it, the Word of God dropped like a judge’s gavel: “You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be?” Lk 12:19-20.
You can’t serve God and mammon. If you trust in your material things, you’ve got a lot to worry about. In the final analysis, trusting in anything above God is just another form of the ancient sin called “idolatry.” Putting your confidence in mammon will bring you nothing but trouble in this life, and that’s bad enough. But such a misplaced trust will mean downright disaster on Judgment Day! On that Day, you and your material goods are going to part company forever, and then “whose will those things be?”
Not to worry is impossible—impossible, that is, if you put your trust in material things. But there is a sure-fire way to stop worrying. In our text, Jesus tells us, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Trust in the Lord, and your worries are over!
Have you seen those advertisements for “stain-resistant” furniture? There’s really only one difference between regular furniture and “stain-resistant” furniture. One has upholstery treated with a special chemical. Spills just bubble up on the surface, and easily wipe clean. The other doesn’t have it, so the stains penetrate deep and do permanent damage. Well, there’s really only one difference between the anxious and stress-filled lives of the unbelievers who live around you, and the worry-free life that God wants you to live. What’s the difference? It’s the protection that comes from trusting in God.
When Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” you know what He means. That righteousness is the protection that Jesus earned for us through His death on the cross. Just think of it this way: none of your sins can produce a lasting stain, because Jesus has paid the price for them. God will one day call you home—maybe tonight is the “night your soul will be required of you”—but you have absolutely nothing to worry about. Because of Jesus’ atoning work as your substitute, your record is spotless. With His blood as your protection, no sin can stain you in God’s eyes. As John says, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” I Jn 1:7. Note carefully that it says, “from ALL sin”! So many of us carry around the guilty memory of a particular sin we’ve committed, which comes back to trouble us again and again. But Christ cleanses us from ALL sin! There is no sin you have committed that God has not already covered with the precious blood of His Son Jesus. In His love, God makes this promise to you in His Word, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” That’s a promise from God. Nothing can change it, and God never goes back on His Word. That’s why C.F.W. Walther, the father of American Lutheranism, once said, “I can confidently meet God on the Last Day; and if He were preparing to condemn me, I could say to Him: ‘You can not condemn me without making Yourself a liar. You have invited me to place my entire confidence in Your promise. I have don that, and therefore I cannot be condemned!” Now that’s Christian confidence! That’s what it means not to worry!
But maybe you see a problem here. “Sure,” you say, “in Christ I’ve got nothing to worry about on Judgment Day—but I’ve got other worries—worries in the here and now! Will I stay healthy? Will I have enough money to pay the bills? Can my wife and I work through the problems in our marriage? Will we have enough wisdom to raise our children right?” But Jesus says: NOT TO WORRY. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” For the exact same reason we trust God for our forgiveness day by day, we can also rely on Him to provide all the other things we need in life.
The Lord has a special interest, not just in Christians in general, but in each one of you in particular. Think for a moment—He allowed His only Son to bleed and die for you so you could have eternal salvation—now don’t you think you can trust Him to take care of the other needs in your life? With a gentle rebuke, Jesus says to you: take a look around. Look at the beautiful wildflowers that spring up by themselves along the roadside. They don’t toil or spin. They don’t draw a paycheck. Yet God gives them more luxurious clothing than even King Solomon had. Or, Jesus says, consider the birds of the air—they don’t worry about planting or harvesting or whether their barns are big enough. They have no bank accounts or IRA’s. But God never fails to feed them. “Are you not of more value than they are?” asks Jesus. Or, in the words of the Apostle Paul, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Rom 8:32. It’s a question that needs no answer. For Jesus’ sake, God will give you everything you need. It’s simply a fact. Ask the older, more-experienced Christians among us this morning, and they’ll tell you it’s a fact. And that’s a very good reason to stop worrying, and start trusting that God is going to take care of your life!
You don’t have to worry about tomorrow. You’re a Christian. And life for a Christian isn’t a life of walking on eggshells, but a victorious life that trusts in God to provide our needs. To be a Christian means NOT TO WORRY, because our “Father knows that we have need of all these things.”
A had a friend when I was younger whose parents had painted an interesting passage on the wall right above their dining room table. I don’t imagine the children of that family paid much attention to it—they were just hungry kids, after all. All they knew was that, when dinner time came around, there would always be food on the table. It wasn’t until years later that my friend realized that his parents had known all along how not to worry. The passage read simply, “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and he shall bring it to pass.” May God grant us similar grace to place all our trust in our loving and generous Provider, AMEN.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.