August 11 2013 Sermon
ESV Luke 12:22 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. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 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! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 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. 28 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! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. 32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 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. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
As disciples of Jesus, we journey with him to his cross, resurrection and ascension. Beginning with our baptism into Jesus, we follow the same journey through the sufferings and trials of life, bearing our crosses as he bore his, on to our death, then to the resurrection from the dead and finally ascend into God’s eternal kingdom. Along the way monetary issues arise and worries about how we will survive in this world.
Jesus addresses these issues as he journeys to his death and resurrection, and had just dealt with two brothers who were quarreling over an inheritance because of their sinful greed. The discussion was now on the topic of money and things of this world. So he turns to his disciples and says, “I tell you this. Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, or your body, what you will wear.” Turning from unbelievers, he is now talking to us believers in order to comfort us. The topic is how money and material things fit into our lives while we are waiting for him to return. I encourage you to follow along the gospel reading on your bulletin inserts as we study this text.
These words are meant to comfort us. Jesus says over and over in our reading, “Do not be anxious.” “Do not worry.” “Do not fear.” This pericope is one of sweet gospel comfort. When he says, “Don’t worry,” He is not giving us another law here. It is more like a mother talking to her little boy who just fell off his bicycle and has scraped up his knee. “Don’t worry. Mommy will take care of you. You will be alright.” Jesus is telling us the same, “Don’t worry, your Father will take care of you. It will be okay.” He is talking to all of us, because he knows that for us North Americans, making a living, buying things, getting more and more stuff, are some of our highest priorities, and are what we spend most of our time on. We have a passion for the material world, comfort, luxury, and pleasure. He knows that because of our passion for these things, we spend a major portion of our time worrying. There is not a single one here this morning who does not, or has not at one time or another, worried and been anxious about how he is going to take care of himself and his family. This is a universal problem that strikes at the heart of all people, rich and poor.
For this reason Jesus comforts us. “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat, or your body, what you will wear, because life is more than food and clothing.” Life transcends such mundane matters. Life is more than the physical and material concerns of our body. It surpasses even death itself, because, “He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” (John 11:25). Not even death can separate us from the love of God, (Romans 8:).
The Greek word used here for worry, or being anxious, gives us a clue of something that is more developed as we go through the text. It not only means worry or being anxious, it also means being concerned about and caring for others. It would be like the mother telling her boy, “Don’t be concerned with your scrape,” while she herself is concerned and is taking care of him. The same word for worry also means to care for others. Life is more than worrying about yourself and getting all you can for yourself. Life is about caring for others. Life is more than looking out for ourselves and getting what we need and want, it’s looking out for others. St. Paul tells us, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Don’t worry. God will take care of you. Consider the ravens, God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than the birds! Consider the lilies, how they grow. They neither toil nor spin, yet God clothes them in glory greater that King Solomon.
So why worry? All the worry in the world can’t add a single hour to your life. Worry doesn’t accomplish a thing. But if God so clothes the grass how much more will he clothe you? O you of little faith! Verse 28: here he comes to the heart of the matter. Worry is nothing other than a lack of faith. We worry because our faith is weak. We are anxious because we don’t trust God 100%. Fact is, no one ever does. No matter how great a super-Christian you may be, your faith is not complete. You are still imperfect and sinful. We all worry because no one has perfect faith in this lifetime. From the time of our Baptism, God is at work to strengthen our faith, God is at work to transform our lives, to sanctify us, but his work is never complete in this life. We have to deal with weak faith until the day we die.
We also must not expect others to be perfect either. Those Christians around us do not have a perfect faith either. They too will falter, fail, and sin. Because we are all in the same situation, we must be more patient and forgiving of others. Their faith is still growing through word and sacrament, just as our faith grows through word and sacrament, but none of us ever comes to full, perfect, and complete faith in this life. Forgiveness and patience are godly virtues we all need more of.
So what Jesus is doing here in this text is trying to strengthen our weak faith. He is telling us not to worry because God the Father will provide for you. As he provides for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, he will provide for you because you are much more valuable. Do not spend your time and effort seeking the things of the world. In Verse 30 he says, “the nations seek these things…” When he uses the expression “the nations” he is talking about godless peoples, the non-believing peoples of the world. Yes, those without faith in God do worry and fret over these material things for such worry is nothing other than a lack of faith.
But you, who have faith in God, albeit weak faith, are to seek God’s kingdom. For life is more than food and clothing, it is the kingdom of God. Don’t worry, because all these things will be added to you. In fact in verse 32 he says, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Giving you life and his good and gracious gifts is what gives God pleasure. His joy is giving. He is a loving and giving God.
Therefore, God will provide for all your needs, because that is what he enjoys doing. Moreover, he knows what you need. God knows what you need by his own personal experience. This is not just some head knowledge, as if he read a book about life on planet earth. He himself became a man and lived in this life and experienced all the same needs you and I experience. He knows what it is like to be without, what it is like to be hungry, what it is like to be in danger, because he too experienced all the same things you experience.
He suffered your sufferings so that he could take them to the cross. He absorbed your sins into his own flesh. He burdened himself with your worries and cares. He took all your illness and pains and made them his own and then took them all to the cross where he suffered and died for you. He has borne your griefs and carried your sorrows. He was oppressed and afflicted. He was cut off out of the land of the living and was stricken for the transgression of his people. He took your burdens and worries and crucified them on the cross in order to free you from them.
So your sins are paid for, you are free. You are free to love one another. You are free to forgive others. You are free to be patient with the sinners around you, because Jesus put up with your sins, suffered for them, and died for them. Your sins are forgiven so now life is more than food and clothing and the material things of this world. Life is about forgiving others and serving them.
We come to the conclusion in verse 33: Sell your possessions and give to the needy. From the very beginning we have seen undertones of caring for the needs of others, now he makes it explicit. In our baptism we are freed from having to worry about ourselves, so that we can concentrate on the needs of others. God will provide your needs, so rather than worry about yourselves, rather than being preoccupied with getting for self, you are free to do unto others, to help others, to care for others and to show them mercy and compassion. God will tend to your needs, so you can tend to the needs of others. God tells us in Ephesians, “Do honest work with your own hands so that you may have something to share with anyone in need.” That is a complete reversal of our North American work ethic, “get all you can, the one who dies with the most things is the winner.” That is sheer idolatry! God’s work ethic is “work in order to be able to help others.”
Store up your treasures in heaven. Have a moneybag that does not grow old, that is your treasure in heaven. And that treasure is the people you have cared for and helped in this life. Every opportunity you are given to help someone in need, is a treasure in heaven. By your service to others in vocation, you are piling up treasures in heaven. That wife you provide for is your treasure. That husband you help in his time of illness is your treasure. That baby whose diapers you changed is a treasure. That mother you obeyed when you really didn’t want to, is your treasure in heaven. That customer who cursed you out in the store when you were checking him out, is your treasure in heaven.
Be strong in faith. Do not worry. Jesus died on the cross to forgive your sins. God knows what you need, and he provides for you so you are free to care for others. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! Amen.
When you were baptized, you became part of a family, a community. Baptized into Christ we are joined to one another. Baptized into Christ we become one body and when one part suffers the whole body suffers, so we take care of one another. Baptized into Christ we are hidden in Christ, covered with him, and God sees Christ when he looks at us.