Matthew 6:24-34 "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
When it comes to the relationship between us and God and money, it really is a matter of priorities—of what comes first in our hearts. Only one can hold that first place in our life that is reserved for the one that we call God. It can be either money or God at the center of our life but it cannot be both. We cannot serve two masters—we cannot serve God and money.
We know what the world has chosen. Our nation’s financial life is an exercise in wretched, sinful excess. Young women are cultural icons for having purses that cost tens of thousands of dollars. CEO’s get paid hundreds of millions of dollars a year for bankrupting their companies. The average Joe charges on their credit cards like there was no tomorrow and when their limits are reached they use the equity in their homes like it is a piggy bank to fund more financial foolishness.
Of course they hang their head in their hands for the god of Mammon that has ruled their lives has been shown for what he is—a powerless idol—unworthy of their devotion and trust.
But what about us? Do the Lord’s words apply only to others? The truth of the matter, is that Jesus’ words about the impossibility of serving two masters, really applies to us more than it does to the unbelieving world. The world serves only one God—the false god of Mammon. We Christians are the ones who try to have it both ways.
If we have given even a bit of our confidence in the future and our heart’s peace and our security over to our job or our bank or our 401K and IRA—we should be convicted by Jesus’ words about the impossibility of serving two masters—for we have ceased to love and serve and trust in God above ALL things and we must confess that sin as idolatry, repent of it, and be done with it.
Jesus assures us today that our heart’s peace about the future need not be found in what we can hold in our hand-- but is to be found only in a heavenly Father who graciously and generously provides for his children. Jesus says:
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious 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?
The answer that Jesus is looking for is: YES it is! Life is more, much more, than food and clothing and the point that he is making is this: Since God has given us our life won’t he just as certainly give us the smaller gifts we need to preserve that life?!
Absolutely! That we are living and breathing at this moment is a sure sign that God has given us our life; provided for that life up to now; and will provide for that life in the days to come. Of course, this way of thinking is only a comfort to those who know God as the Giver of life in the first place.
Those who believe that their very existence is merely the last event in a chain of haphazard, random of events over billions of years that could have just as easily happened otherwise-- take no comfort from knowing that God will provide the necessities of life because they don’t know the God who gave them life-- and they live in fear of a cosmos that seemingly acts without mercy or meaning.
But we who believe in a loving heavenly Father do take great comfort in knowing (from all that we see around us and from our own life’s experience) that God does indeed provide for his children. The Creator who has given us our life-- promises to provide for that life-- and reveals the truth of that promise in the created world. Jesus says:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you,
These words were not spoken in the synagogue or temple—not in a disciple’s home—but in the great outdoors—and Jesus invited all who are listening to simply open our eyes and look at the world around us.
The birds were flying from place to place without a care in the world, gathering what they needed, building their nests, feeding their little ones without the benefit of all those things that we think are a necessity if we are to be fed.
Jesus mentions harvesting and reaping and barns and plows. Maybe today he would say checking accounts and contracts. But the message is the same: the littlest creature that wouldn’t catch our eye is seen, loved, and provided for by God.
And if God will do that for birds, won’t he do the same for his children? Of course he will! We are infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than birds. The One who feeds us with the Body and Blood of his Son in Holy Communion to sustain our spiritual life will certainly give us the food we need for this earthly life!
As further proof of the Father’s provision, Jesus directs his disciples to the beauty of the flowers of the field. There has never been an item of clothing—no matter how costly—that could compare in beauty to a plain ole Texas roadside covered in wildflowers. It takes your breath away every time you see it!
And so here’s the question: If God is willing to go to all that trouble for a bunch of plants on the side of a road that only last for a few weeks out of the year, won’t he also provide us with the clothes that we need?
Of course he will! We are God’s children and he has made us for eternity. The One who has provided us the robe of Christ’s righteousness in Holy Baptism will certainly give us what we need to clothe our bodies and preserve our earthly life.
Besides directing our attention to our own life and the life around us as sure signs of God’s provision, Jesus also warns us about the futility and sinful foolishness of worrying about our earthly needs. He says: “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
And of course, the answer is: none of us! There is not one blessed thing that can be changed by worrying about our life—not one—besides the fact that the vast, vast majority of things we worry about never come to pass in the first place.
Jesus’ judgment on our anxieties and worries and on our fussing and fretting about material things is that, not only is it fruitless—it is faithless. He says: O you of little faith!
Now, you may be saying to yourselves that Jesus’ teaching about not serving money and watching birds and flowers seems a bit irresponsible. Jesus’ teaching about not worrying seems a bit impossible. But of course the problem was not with the Lord or his words—it was with us—with our lack of faith.
That is why Jesus speaks to us today about the place and role of money and material things in our lives and he lays a rock-solid foundation upon which we are to build our faith: his promise that we have a heavenly Father who will provide for us just as surely as he provides for all creation—in fact, even more assuredly for we are his children. Jesus says:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
The unbelieving world has no choice but to seek after money and they cannot help but worry—for they do not know what we know: that we have a heavenly Father who knows just exactly what we need and promises to meet those needs.
God’s eyes are constantly turned towards us and he is constantly looking out for our best interests and so we are free to put aside concerns about material things and put first things first. Jesus says:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Jesus wants us to understand tonight that a life spent acquiring the things of the world—a life spent living by the values of the world—a life spent worrying-- is a life that is wasted for time and eternity.
Instead, the Lord gives a different kind of life—a life as his child in his kingdom. Jesus was sent into this world for that very purpose—to give his life as a ransom to set us free from a life that is empty of meaning because it is focused only on material things which never last.
His death on the cross earned the forgiveness we need for all those times that we have had divided hearts and for all those times we have failed to trust him as we ought. And his resurrection is God’s guarantee that even death cannot rob us of those things that truly, eternally matter.
Today we give thanks to God, our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ his Son for all his blessings and tender mercies and we ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to trust him more deeply in the days to come. Amen.