The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity| Rev. Rolf Preus| August 31, 2008| St. Matthew 6:24-34
“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. Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 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? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So 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? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For 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. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
If the father loves fishing, he teaches his boys how to fish. If the mother loves to crochet, she teaches her daughters how to do it. What you love to do is what you pass on to your children, because you love them and you want them to love what you love.
What we love the most is what we will seek out. What we love the most is what we will consider to be the most precious and important possession we have. If what we love the most is our God, then we are his true children. And we will teach our children to love God the most. But if what we love the most is our material possessions, we are idolaters. Idolaters teach their children to be idolaters as well. This is why God gives us this warning: “I, the LORD thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.” Likewise, it is to warn us against the sin of idolatry that Jesus speaks to us today the words recorded by St. Matthew. To worry is, quite simply, idolatry.
Idolatry is to love the creation more than the Creator. When we love the things that God gives us more than we love God himself we are idolaters. The true child of God loves the Giver of the gift more than the gift itself. This is so whether the gift is a necessity or a luxury. Jesus mentions both food and clothing in our text. Both are necessities and both can also be luxuries as well. Who knows our need? Who loves us? Who cares for us day and night? Who rules all of creation and controls the weather, the laws of nature, the movements of nations, and everything in the entire universe for the benefit of his children? God does. Our God does.
Ironically, the more folks learn about how God provides for us, the less they glorify God for his generosity. Instead, they turn to myths about how the world evolved by chance. The beauty of the world God has made illustrates for us the tender care of our loving Father. If he clothes the grass of the field, he will surely clothe us. If he feeds the birds of the air, he will surely feed us. But instead of giving thanks to God, the world shows its contempt for God by figuring out how to explain the wonders of his creation by leaving him out of the figuring! What insolence! What ingratitude! Then they call this “science” and try to shout down or ridicule off of the stage of public discourse anyone impertinent enough to challenge their godless orthodoxy.
Don’t think for one moment that the theory of evolution is primarily an issue of science. It never has been. It is the effort of idolaters to defend and excuse their idolatry. They do it by attacking the very existence of a Creator who continues to govern and care for his creation. They refuse to acknowledge any evidence that God has intervened in the affairs of this world. If they were to open their eyes to the evidence of God’s creation and care for this world, they would have to acknowledge their duty to worship and praise and serve this divine Creator. That they will not do.
We know better. We know that God spoke and it was; God created out of nothing all that exists. We know the truth. So we don’t worry about our daily bread. We know the One who provides it. We know that life is more than what we eat or what we wear. True life is lived in service to the God who created us. Do we know this? Or do we worry? Do we worry about having enough, being cared for, having to do without? Do we make enough money to pay our bills? Will we be able to makes ends meet? Will we get the job we’ve been working for? What about our health? What about our children? What about the repairs on the car and we can’t afford a new one?
God is not ignorant. We are. God knows what we need. He never forgets. When we worry about our daily needs, we question God and we deny his word. The typical heathen who buys into evolution and knows little about the true religion cannot be excused for his ignorance. The evidence of God’s creative power and God’s existence as God was there before his eyes and he chose to close his eyes against that knowledge. Then what is our excuse when we live day to day worrying about things that our God has promised to provide? We have even less of an excuse because God has taught us the truth of the Holy Scriptures and has revealed to us his love in Jesus Christ.
Knowing Jesus is the only knowledge that will give us confidence when we doubt that God will care for us day by day. When Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” he is saying: “Seek me. Look to me, your Savior. Know that I am the one who makes you fit for heaven. You worry about the things of this life and your affection is set on getting enough of them. You are looking in the wrong place. Look instead to the things that make for eternal life.”
The kingdom of God is God ruling over us from the cross. That is, God’s kingdom is Jesus taking on himself the sin of the world as he was there on Calvary identified by the title, King of the Jews. God’s kingdom is Jesus taking on himself all of our sin, our guilt, our misery, our shame, our death, our fears, our hell. God’s kingdom is God then giving to us Jesus’ righteousness, his innocence, his glory, and the joy that comes from being washed clean of all our sin. The kingdom of God is Christ coming to us and filling our hearts with the treasure of God’s pure love. It is Jesus washing us at the font and adopting us into God’s family. It is Jesus absolving us of our sins by his holy gospel. It is Jesus giving to us to eat and to drink his holy body and blood, thereby guaranteeing us that our sins are forgiven in his name.
The kingdom of God is the holy Christian Church. The church and the kingdom are the same thing. The kingdom is hidden, just as faith is always hidden. You cannot see it. But you know that the kingdom of God is wherever his pure gospel is taught. You know that the kingdom of God is wherever his baptism is administered. You know that the kingdom of God is wherever his Supper is celebrated. There God is. There true wealth is. There faith is born, nourished, and strengthened.
When Jesus tells us to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, he is saying that the spiritual treasures that God gives us are more important than the material things that he gives us. He is saying that we won’t really believe that God will care for our daily needs until we see how God cares for our eternal needs. This is how God creates in us a confidence that he will provide for every need of life. We must learn to see God in Christ and Christ on the cross for us. We must learn to see God in Christ and Christ here in his gospel and sacraments. We must learn to see God in Christ and Christ in his holy word and the heavenly doctrine of that word. Then we will learn to treasure every single word God says as more precious than any created thing. Only then will we be set free from the idolatry in our own sinful hearts.
Jesus uses a classic argument from the greater to the lesser. If the greater is true the lesser is also true. The greater is that Christ has purchased eternal life for us by his obedience and suffering as our substitute. The lesser is that God will take care that we are properly clothed and fed. God has given us the greater gift: his only begotten Son. Surely, God will give us the lesser gift: our daily need to be fed and clothed.
If we value the treasures of his kingdom more than our money, our jobs, our homes, and all our stuff, God will ensure that we are eternally rich. These are riches that, when we give them away, we still have them. These are riches that we can give to our children that will never be taxed or lost or stolen. Since God guarantees these riches we don’t worry about losing them. We let God do the worrying for us.
Worrying is grounded in doubt. Doubt is unbelief. It is idolatry. There is only one cure for false faith. That is to replace it with the truth faith. This is why we seek the righteousness of God’s kingdom that is ours by faith. This is why we read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the Holy Scriptures. This is why we go to the Divine Service, not just when it is convenient but whenever we possibly can. We need God’s Word in our lives. For from it faith springs. And wherever faith is born, worry recedes. Why worry? There is no point. Our heavenly Father knows what we need and he loves us. Amen