Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. There are but two ways of living in this world. There is the way of man. And there is the way of God. Many in our world today would suggest that there are any number of paths one can follow in this world. But the Scriptures constantly exhort us to reject this way of thinking. There are only two ways of living in this world. Nearly all of the so-called “paths” one can follow in this world are merely subsets of the way of man. These paths may take different roads, but they all follow the same principle of self-exaltation, and they all lead to the same place of eternal death. The way of God, however, is a singular way. It is the difficult way of self-denial that leads to eternal life. This is why our Lord says in Matthew 7:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
We are reminded of these two ways at the beginning of our Gospel text when our Lord says:
“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” (Matthew 6:24).
You can either live according to God’s way by serving and trusting in him alone, or you can live according to man’s way by serving and trusting in the things of this world. So, as we consider these two ways of living, our text for today invites us to focus specifically on trust—who or what do you trust in above all things?
So, today we will consider what it looks like:
1) To trust man’s ways and
2) To trust God’s ways.
II. Trusting Man’s Ways
2. First, what does it look like to trust man’s ways? Simply put, trusting in man’s ways means constant concern for the things of this world. Our Lord gives us examples of several of the things of this world which a person trusting in man’s ways might be overly concerned with. First, he discusses food:
“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?” (Matthew 6:26).
Our Lord’s point is fairly obvious. To trust in the ways of man and to obsess over food is unbecoming of a Christian. And yet this is what you and I devote so much of our time attention to doing. We obsess over shopping lists and making the best food that we can. We take pride in knowing where the best restaurants are and what food to order there. We structure our lives around food, making sure that we never have to go hungry for too long. We are the picture of one who fails to trust in the Lord, choosing man’s way in this regard. The same could be said regarding clothing. Our Lord says:
“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, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30).
Again, our Lord’s point is clear. The way of man is to fail to trust in God to provide clothing. And yet this is what you and I do. We spend obscene amounts of time and money shopping at the mall or online. We obsess over the latest fashion trends. We spend more time that we care to admit getting dressed with the perfect outfit in the morning. We are the picture of one who fails to trust in the Lord, choosing man’s way in this regard. This is often true of physical life itself, too. Our Lord also says:
“And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Mt. 6:27).
The answer to that question is clear—we can’t add time to our lives by worry and anxiety. And yet we worry and are anxious anyway. We are the picture of one who fails to trust in the Lord, choosing repeatedly the ways of man. This is what the unbelieving pagans do. They seek relentlessly after the things of this world, trusting in the ways and means and processes of man:
“For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:32).
Despite the fact that our heavenly Father knows our needs and provides for them, we constantly look at the world and seek to imitate man’s ways. For trusting in man’s ways, we must repent.
III. Trusting God’s Ways
3. Now, to repent literally means to turn around and change your way of living. This is precisely what our Lord invites us to do in verse 33 of our text:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
We’ve considered what it looks like to trust in man’s ways. Now our Lord invites us to consider what it looks like to trust in God’s ways. We see from this verse that trusting in God’s ways means seeking two things: God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. At first, this might seem some-what abstract. But in his Small Catechism, Martin Luther makes this more tangible by telling us what it means for God’s kingdom to come among us. He writes:
“God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us his Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.”
In short, God’s kingdom comes among us when his Holy Spirit is at work through God’s Word. So, if we want to repent of trusting in man’s ways, we must begin by seeking God’s Word because when we find God’s Word, we find his Holy Spirit, who works in and among us. This leads to the second thing that we must seek: God’s righteousness. While we might be tempted to think of seeking God’s righteousness as something we do, the Scriptures actually warn us otherwise. In Romans 4, Saint Paul outlines for us definitively what righteousness is. He writes:
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness (Romans 4:3-5).
Scripturally speaking, to be “righteous” is to be declared right with God by God. This is the key. Righteousness is something received from God. It’s a verdict handed down to us by God which fundamentally changes our reality, much like a judge who pronounces a guilty man innocent. Once the verdict has been given, reality has changed. The man is innocent. This, my friends, is why our Lord gives us the instruction to seek his kingdom and his righteousness. He does not give us this command because by our own efforts we can somehow overcome our sinful trust in man’s ways. He gives us this command because when we seek the kingdom of God found in his Word, we are introduced to the Lord Jesus, who has taken our sin upon himself. He has suffered and died upon the cross so that you might be forgiven. And he seals this forgiveness upon us through Word and Sacrament, where the Holy Spirit imputes to us the righteousness of Christ—a righteousness that comes to us, not through our own merits, but through the merits of Christ. Our Lord instructs us to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness because when we do so, we find ourselves looking at Christ, whose righteousness is given to us freely when we seek it in humility and faith. And the Lord blesses those who seek His righteousness in this way. May our Lord grant us the humility and faith to look to Christ and his Word so that his forgiveness and righteousness may be ours forevermore.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.