“And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”
Context is everything and the context is last Sunday’s stop on the journey with Jesus. “Someone in the crowd said, ‘teacher, tell my brother to share the inheritance with me.” And that led to a parable about a rich man who whose farm produced a bumper crop, which to him meant ‘early retirement’ with enough ‘social security’ to “relax, eat, drink and be merry” WITHOUT WORRY.
Watching this guy celebrate his windfall last Sunday was like watching a multi-millionaire win the lottery only to announce that now, finally, he would be able to retire and enjoy life.
The great SURPRISE of course was the fact that the man had less than 24 hours to live and how much can you ‘relaxing and eating and drinking’ can you cram into 24 hours?
Last week we met a ‘fictitious’ man who came to the end of his life with great disappointment. A rich man upon whom abundance had been entrusted and at the end of his life, all he could say was, ‘why are treating me like this God? This is so unfair.’ And we all know that this ‘FICTITIOUS’ man is actually quite ‘NON-FICTITIOUS.’ The world is full of them. And, there we are in the crowd.
Now Jesus turns to His disciples and speaks particularly to them. They are His ‘SAINTS,’ His ‘holy-ones,’ His ‘set-apart from the crowd’ ones. They are not to be like that. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”
There is a cultural gap here that need to deal with before we can begin to hear Jesus speak to us as we sit in the congregation along with His disciples. I would dare to say that none of us is anxious about the chance that we may starve to death or have no clothes to cover our bodies with. Granted there are people who legitimately worry about such things. And Jesus’ words mean what they say to them too.
But what do they mean for us? It’s pretty easy for us to say, ‘okay Lord, I won’t worry about what I will eat or the clothes I’ll wear, as we pack more food into our 24.5 cubic foot refrigerator with side by side doors and built in ice-maker, and stare at an overflowing clothes closet wondering, ‘what shall I wear today.’
The disciples may well have been ‘anxious’ about such things. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, we have left everything and followed you.” (Matthew 19:27) Maybe they had some ‘anxiety’ about how they would provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and their families. But we haven’t left everything to follow Jesus. Nor has the Lord called us to “leave everything” as He called them.
So we need to ask ourselves, ‘what are those things that I AM anxious about? ‘What DO I worry about?’ ‘What are those things that, when I think about the possibility that I could actually LOOSE them, or that I might never actually HAVE enough, make we worry, make me anxious – to the point that that the worry and anxiety blind me to what I actually DO HAVE; and what the Lord is actually calling me to do with what I DO HAVE; and binds me in shackles like a prisoner and keeps me from doing the good that I know I should do because I worry that if I do, I may not have enough left over to “relax, eat, drink and be merry.”
Whatever those things that cause us to worry may be, and however different they may be for each of us, the underlying problem is the same for all of us – a lack of trust in God to provide for all that we NEED.
The issue here is not whether we worry too much or are too anxious about things. It’d be pretty easy to make this sermon all about the harmful effects of worry and anxiety and end up worried about our worry and anxious about our anxiety. If worry and anxiety is the real issue, there are drugs for that. They say that ‘yoga’ is good for that.
No, worry and anxiety are only symptoms, symptoms of a much deeper problem – the problem of a lack of trust in God to take care of you and provide all that you NEED. “O you of little faith.” And neither drugs nor yoga can help with that. And neither can more money or more success or more stuff or more… you fill in the blank. And neither can selling all of your stuff help you with that either.
Faith is a gift from God. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” (Ephesians 2:8) A gift that He gave to you in your baptism and that He continues to pour out into you as you listen to Him speak to you through His Word.
And faith tells you what is ‘most certainly true,’ which is that God has united you to Himself and Himself to you. He has ALREADY united you to His Son Jesus Christ and you have ALREADY “died with Christ.” “Death has no more dominion over you!” So you can quit worrying about death.
You are ALREADY been “raised with Christ.” “The old has already passed away. The new has already come.” (Rom. 6:4 / 2 Cor. 5:17) So, you can quit worrying about whether or not you’re going to go to heaven.
So, what are you worried about? What are you anxious about? If you lost everything that this world has to offer you, you have lost NOTHING of all that God has ALREADY given you. If you gained everything that this world has to offer, you have gained NOTHING of what you ALREADY possess from God.
A famous Lutheran once said, “Take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife, let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won; the Kingdom ours remaineth.”
The ‘heroes’ that Jesus holds up to His disciples are ‘ravens’ and ‘wild-flowers.’
“Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, 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, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!
Neither ravens nor wild-flowers are examples of great faith. They simply do what they have been created to do. But they are great examples of the amazing extent of God’s care for all that HE HAS CREATED. He feeds the birds with all they can eat and bedecks the flowers with glorious splendor.
So, if He takes care of these things JUST BECAUSE HE CREATED THEM, how much more will He take of YOU, whom He created and for whom He was crucified and buried?
YOU He feeds with His body and blood for the forgiveness of all of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.
YOU He clothes with His own righteousness and You are glorious in His eyes.
YOU He calls ‘my child’ and gives you the inheritance of His glorious riches in the saints.
YOU He gives the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, to live in your body and to make your body a temple of the Lord.
None of which does He do for the ravens and the wildflowers. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all THINGS?” (Rom. 8:32).
So, what makes you ‘worry’? What makes you ‘anxious’? Like dear Martha, we are ‘anxious’ about ‘MANY THINGS.’ And in our worry and anxiety we cry out to God saying, ‘give me MORE THINGS so that I won’t worry anymore.’ ‘Increase my wealth, my health, my talents, my time… so that I won’t be anxious about these things anymore.’ When what we should ask is for is an increase in our faith. “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24).
Let’s be sure to clearly distinguish being ‘worry-free’ from being ‘care –free.’ Not worrying is not the same thing as not caring.
“Faith” in God sets you FREE TO CARE – to care deeply with the freedom to let go of your possessions, your time, your reputation, even your life, knowing that you lose nothing in doing so but rather, gain the joy of discovering what real life truly consists of.
What are you ‘worried about?’
Abraham was ‘worried’ that God’s plan did not seem to be working? God’s promise required offspring and Abraham didn’t have any and Abraham could not see how things would ever turn out as God had promised they would. But God said to Abraham, “Fear not!” ‘Don’t worry Abraham.’ “And Abraham believed the Lord…”
There’s the remedy for ‘worry.’ ‘Believe the Lord.’ God is going to carry out His plan whether you believe it or not, whether you understand how or not, whether you agree with it or not. But ‘faith’ takes all the ‘worry’ out of it and makes you a part of it.
‘Faith’ says, ‘if You say so Lord. I’ll just be the generous, the brave, the faithful, the loving person you want me to be and let the outcome up to You.’ Not so that we may be counted righteous – but because we already have been.
Faith and trust in God freed Abraham to leave his earthly security and possessions behind and set out on the adventure of a lifetime. Apart from faith, fear would have prevented him from taking the risk of trusting in God doing what He called him to do, and Abraham would have remained another ‘non-fictitious’ face in the crowd.
But “by faith, Abraham obeyed when he was called to go… And he went out, not knowing where he was going…” (Heb. 11:8)
The call that was issued to Abraham is the call that Jesus is issuing to His disciples – and to you and me. “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”