Sermon on St. Matthew 6:24-34
8 September 2013
+ Jesu Juva +
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – St. Matthew 6:33
“You cannot serve God and money.” Older translations say “mammon,” which is not just money. Mammon is all manner of material wealth and possessions, which, if we trust in them, can become false gods. Martin Luther puts it this way in the Large Catechism: “That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God” (Tappert, 365:2-3). So here we have an important lesson on what it means to flee from all mammon and to seek first the kingdom of God.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, not about your body, what you will put on.” Jesus' hearers of the Sermon on the Mount, from which this Gospel Lesson is taken, might have thought of Moses and the wilderness wandering. Jesus, after all, ascended the Mount near the Sea of Galilee as the New and Greater Moses, the one who fulfilled the Law given by Moses. Recall the struggles of Old Israel in the wilderness to obtain food and drink and clothing. Food was given miraculously by God: manna from heaven for breakfast and lunch, quail from God's hand for dinner. Clothing? Well, it is difficult to say how God provided clothing for Israel, but they certainly had shoes, walking sticks, and basic clothes. After all, Jesus says, God provides for the birds of the air. You, however, are the crown of His creation, so how much more will He certainly provide everything you need to support this body and life.
Based on God the Father's promise to provide all that we need, Jesus gives us a simple yet profound command: “Do not worry.” This is not to be confused with the Caribbean lifestyle, “Don't worry, be happy!” for there is something much deeper at work here. The underlying word for “worry” in the NT is the same word for a tombstone. Worry erects a tombstone in the human heart. Worry is idolatry. To be sure, the world is a worrisome place and our lives are full of trouble. The stock market goes up and down, and so do our quarterly statements. Fuel prices increase, along with food prices, while our financial resources might decrease. The temptation for poor sinners is to worry. But worry is trust in the self or another false god and it must be crucified through repentance!
Seek first the kingdom of God through repentance and all these things – food and drink and clothing, yes, all of your daily needs -- will be added unto you!
Two OT examples encourage Jesus' hearers not to worry. Consider the lilies of the field. They cannot water themselves, ask for food, or dictate the amount of sun they receive. Indeed, they are totally dependent on God and His grace. Yet, God provides for the lilies, so that they are more beautiful than the splendor of Solomon! And think of Solomon and His mighty empire: a magnificent temple, a state visit from the Queen of Sheba, and abundant wealth and wisdom. His was the mightiest empire of his day. And yet you are of greater value to God then the lilies of the field or Old Israel, which was simply a foretaste of the New Israel, the church. If God cares for these, how much more will He care for you!
Consider, for instance, a true story of one young lady who was adopted out of poverty in a foreign country and brought to live in the States. Having lost her family to war, she was privileged to be adopted by an American family, who had a few teenage boys in the house. She arrived in America, was received into her new home, and sat down for her first meal. To her delight, the table was set with meat and potatoes and vegetables, and much more. She ate her share, and then she watched as her newfound step-brothers quickly devoured every bit of food on the table, as teenage boys will do after football practice. She then got a worrisome look on her face, almost to the point of despair. Her new mother asked her what was wrong. Based on her background in a poor country, she thought they were out of food altogether and had just finished their last meal! That's the way she was raised; “give us this day our daily bread,” and then worry about where the next meal might come from, if it comes at all! So her adoptive mother took her by the hand and showed her the refrigerator, the pantry, and the kitchen closets. There the young girl saw fresh milk, chilled meats, and canned foods. Here she learned that God the Father provides for today, and tomorrow is also in His hands.
Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things – food, family, and a steadfast faith in God the Father's gifts – will be added unto you!
No wonder Jesus says, “Do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'.” Your heavenly Father knows your every need. Indeed, He knows what you need better than you do! And He knows how He will provide your food, drink, and clothing by grace. So “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” The young lady who thought she was returning to starvation after the food on the table was eaten was on to something. We do live one day at a time by God's grace, as Israel did in the wilderness, collecting and eating Manna one day at a time (except for the Sabbath, when they collected for two days). One wonders, for instance, if the Mormon practice of having several months of non-perishable food on hand at all times is an act of faith or an act of worry, at least when Christians do it. In any event, God the Father simply cannot fail to provide all that you need, even to the gray hairs of your head.
And how do we know this is certain? How can we be sure that God the Father will provide all that we need, each and every day? Through His Son. Again, arguing from the lesser to the greater: God provides food and drink and clothing. How much more will He provide forgiveness, life, and salvation? He gave His Son for us, who spent three years meeting physical and spiritual needs. Jesus gave His life into death for us, meeting our deepest need of all: the need for salvation. He rose from the dead, making good on His promise to meet our spiritual need for life and salvation. What shall we wear? He gives us the baptismal robe of His own righteousness. What shall we drink? He gives us to drink of His own Blood. What shall we eat? We shall eat the Body of Christ, who is our Manna from heaven. And those who eat His flesh and blood shall not die, but live forever.
Therefore, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Seek first the kingdom of God, as it comes to you in Sunday School, Bible Study, and the Divine Service. And all other gifts of God – food and clothing, house and home, land and goods – will be added unto you. This rich and abundant life in the Holy Trinity. The Father provides your every need. The Son gives His life for your salvation. And the Holy Spirit grants your heart to cling and entrust your entire life to the one, true God. You, Dearly Beloved, lack nothing, for you are rich toward God. + INJ + Amen.
Rev. Brian Hamer