Saturday, November 21, 2015

Don't Worry - Be Faithful - Matthew 6:24-34

Matthew 6:24-7:1

24 "No one can serve two masters. 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 both God and Money.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


     If you have seen the news lately, you may have noticed that there are a lot of things in this world to worry about.
        There is the tragic terrorist attack in Paris.

          That was followed by the hostage situation in Mali.

          Americans and our leaders seem to be gripped with fear for the future.

          Closer to home people are worried about their children and grandchildren.

          Many have real things to worry about – cancer, loss of a job, death of a loved one.

There is nothing new about worrying.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites worried endlessly as they wandered through the wilderness. 

Right after God gave them freedom from their slavery in Egypt, and as soon as they passed through the Red Sea, they began to worry.  They ran out of water, and the people turned to Moses and said, “Moses, what have you done to us?  We have no water.”

Moses led them to water, but the water was bitter and the people worried even more.  They complained to their leader, “Moses, what have you done to us?  We had lots of water in Egypt.  We should have stayed there instead of coming here just to die of thirst.”

God led them to an area with 12 springs – one for each tribe.

But a few days later the Israelites ran out of food. So they worried some more.  “Moses, what have you done to us?  We had plenty of food in Egypt. We should have stayed there instead of coming here just to die of hunger.”

So God sent bread from heaven every morning and sent quails every night. 

Now you would think that after all of that the people of Israel would have learned to relax.  All they had to do was to trust in God.  God was a proven commodity.  He had provided for the people time after time after time. 

And finally, the people are on border of the Promised Land.  They are about to enter their new homeland and take claim of it.

But when the leaders of Israel sent spies into the Promised Land to scope out the situation, the reports from these spies made the people of Israel nervous and worried.

“O Moses, what have you done to us?  We had a great life in Egypt.  But here we are about to be slaughtered by giants.  We should have stayed in Egypt.”

Worry is part of our lives.  It is a part of our history.  We seem to be wired to worry all of the time.

And we do it so very well.  We should – because we get lots of practice.

But against this, Jesus tells us over and over and over in this short passage from Matthew’s Gospel, “Don’t worry, don’t worry, don’t worry.”

What was Jesus thinking?

Let’s be honest, we have REAL things to worry about.

“Don’t worry,” Jesus says? 

Try telling that to someone who begs on the streets of Orlando because they have no job and no money.

“Don’t worry,” Jesus says?

Try telling that to the waitress who serves you lunch in a little while, and who works at three different restaurants and still can’t get enough hours to work a 40 hour week, and whose mortgage payment is behind.

“Don’t worry,” Jesus says?

Try telling that to a couple who is trying to qualify for their first mortgage, and who have been told they probably won’t get their home.

Meet a man coming out of the doctor’s office who has just received bad news and try telling him, “Don’t worry.”

Listen here - we have real things to worry about.

          We are worried about ISIS.

We are worried about the economy.

          We are worried about our family.

          We are worried about cancer.

          We are worried about not having enough rain, or having too much rain.
We worry about these things because we believe they are important and they are worth our anxiety.

          Of course we are worried.  Don’t tell us not to be.

          When your husband or wife is in the emergency room, the last thing you want to hear is some pastor coming up to you saying, “Don’t worry.”

          When you have a suspicious mole or a lump on your breast or a pain in your chest, you’d better worry enough to seek medical help.
          The problem is that we become so consumed by our worries. 

          We don’t sleep at night.

          The joy of life has faded.

          Our worries interfere with our sex life, our family life, our work life, our whole life.

          It is not that these things are not important – they are.  Jesus acknowledges that and says in this passage, “Your heavenly father knows you need these things” taken care of.  It is not that we worry about things we want or would like to have – Jesus acknowledges that we NEED these things.

          The problem is that we become so consumed by our worries.  We are overwhelmed by them.  Our whole lives become out of balance.  And the anxiety itself does very little good.  As Jesus said, “Who among you can add a single day to your life simply by worrying.”

          Jesus comes along and he sees our anxiety and he offers us a better way.

          This passage not only gives us encouragement, “Don’t worry,” it also gives some instructions.

          And the instruction is to stay focused on God.

          Most of us stay focused on the problem, but Jesus says, stay focused on the solution – God.

          Jesus begins this conversation about worrying by talking about God-verses-money.  Now there is nothing evil about money.  I bet you like money.  I like money.  The Session voted last week to give me a raise – and in January that has to go to the congregation for approval.  And if that goes well, this will be the first raise I’ve had since I’ve been here.   Who doesn’t like to get a raise.  Everyone would like to have more money.

There are those who like to quote the Bible by saying that “money is the root of all evil.”  That is not what the Bible says.  What the Bible teaches is that “LOVE of money is the root of all evil.”

          So I guess I’ll have to keep saying, “I don’t love money, I just like it.”

But money in and of itself is not a bad thing.

The problem with money is that we look toward money as a solution to all of our problems, and the master and ruler of our life.

When Jesus used the term “master” in this passage, he doesn’t just use it in terms of “the master who must be obeyed,” but also, “the master who has a responsibility to take care of the servant.”

Who is your master?  Who takes care of you?  Jesus says, “you can’t have two masters.”

The problem with money is that we think it will take care of us, but it doesn’t.  We think of money as being the solution to our problems, but it’s not able to solve all life’s problems.  And deep inside we know that.  Money can disappear so easily.  Some of us have learned that all too well in the past two or three years.

And when you get right down to it, what good is money?

Motivational speaker, Zig Zigler, has some great thoughts about money and what it can do for us, and what it can’t do for us.

He says:

Money can buy you a house, but it can't buy you a home.

Money can buy you insurance, but it can't buy you security.

Money can buy you entertainment, but it can't buy you happiness.

Money can buy you medicine, but it can't buy you good health.

Money can buy you a bed, but it can't buy you a good night’s sleep.

Money can buy you companionship, but it can't buy you friendship.

Money can buy you sex, but it can't buy you love.

          We worry so much.  We need a home, and we look toward money to provide us with a home, but it can’t do that.  All it can do is buy a building which can be destroyed in the next hurricane, or foreclosed in a bad economy.

          We worry about security, love, friendship – but Zig Zigler is right.  These are not the things money provides.  God provides the things that we are really seeking

Jesus tells us in this passage, “Do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' … your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

          We need to stay focused on our master.  God.  He is the solution to life’s problems.

          So if you are looking for freedom from worry, stay focused on God.

          The best way to free ourselves from worry is to stay focused on God.  Don’t stay focused on the problems.  Yes, these are real problems, but those problems are not the ruler of your life.  God is the ruler of your life – keep your focus on him. 
The Israelites who marched through the story were living out one of the greatest stories of the Old Testament.  They were slaves, and God freed them.  And yet they got bogged down in the day to day struggles.  They worried about food, and water, and all sorts of things.  Now those are important  -  but instead of being focused on the solution, they just focused on the problem. 

Keep our focus on God.  Trust God.  Know that God loves you.  Know that God knows you need food, water, and all these other things.  Don’t worry, just stay faithful to God.

A few moments ago, we sang a very traditional hymn for the week of Thanksgiving – “Now thank we all our God.”

This hymn was written by Rinkart, a Lutheran minister, and he based the words to this great hymn on a verse in the Bible, 1 Thessalonians 6:18, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

Rinkart lived in Germany way back in the 17th Century.  His life time was filled with war and violence.  Religions did not act very loving to one another, but were often in violent disagreement. Rinkart lived in a city that was blessed by a strong wall and defense, and as a result, there was a tremendous refugee problem. 

There does not seem to be much difference between the 1600s and 2015.

During the horrible plague of 1637, Rinkart had forty to fifty funerals a day. And one of those funerals was that of his own wife.

It was during that time that he sat down and wrote that hymn that we sang a few minutes ago.

Remember the words?
                "Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices. 
                Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices. 
                Who from our mothers' arms, has blessed us on the way.
                With countless gifts of love and still is ours today."

In the midst of war, refugees, sickness and death, he wrote NOW thank we all our God. 

The problems of life are many – but stay focused.  Don’t let worry overwhelm the joys of life.

Copyright 2015. 
Dr. W. Maynard Pittendreigh
All rights reserved

Ministers may feel free to use some or all of this sermon in their own ministries as long as they do not publish in print or on the Internet without ascribing credit to the author.