by the Rev. Mark T. Buetow
St. Matthew 6:24-34
Brothers and sisters in Christ, God has given you all things in Jesus. Forgiveness is yours. Life is yours. Heaven is yours. The Lord Himself is yours in Christ. You are washed and claimed by the Lord in Holy Baptism. The sins that once stood against you have been cast aside by Holy Absolution. The Body and Blood of Jesus are your regular feast. The Good News of the Son of God's death for your sins is the testimony of the Lord Himself that He loves you and cares for you in and through His Son. That is true riches!
St. Peter tells us that we have been given an inheritance, set aside in heaven for us. The Catechism reminds us that gold and silver are not the treasure, but the holy, precious blood of Jesus which rescues us from our sins. The Catechism also reminds us that our Father in heaven gives us ALL that we need for our body and life. From our earthly life to eternal life, our Lord's got us covered!
So, why, oh, why must we get all worried about stupid Mammon!? Why do husbands and wives have to fight about who spends what and how much? Why do kids hate their parents when they don't buy them what they want? Why do we spend, spend, spend on the latest stuff that will be out of date a few months or years from now? Why do we worry and fret when it’s time to pay bills? Why does the church struggle to pay her bills and every meeting is either about how to spend the money we have or why we don't have enough? Money, money, money! Mammon.
Understand: our idolatry is NOT that we have stuff. Not that we buy things we want or get sad when the things we have are taken from us. No, our idolatry is that we don't believe that the Father has given us EVERY good gift in Jesus Christ. Sure, we're baptized and have Jesus' body and blood and the preaching of the Gospel. But does that put food on the table? Does that mail a check to the credit card company? Never mind church. We've got real problems to worry about! Repent of that thinking, dear Christians, as if EVERY good gift in Christ is somehow not enough.
To rescue us from the despair that mammon brings, Jesus lifts our eyes to look at the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Think about this. Every time you see the mess that a bird left on your windshield, you can say, "Yep. My Father in heaven is still feeding the birds! I guess He'll feed me too." Every time you see flowers growing at the side of the road, you can be certain, "Yep. My Father in heaven is making the flowers look beautiful. I guess He'll make sure I don't go around naked too!" Think about that, brothers and sisters in Christ! Birds and lilies! Birds that take target practice on your car. Flowers that are beautiful one day and dried up and gone the next. The Father in heaven makes sure they are fed and clothed. And you're going to worry if He's going to take care of you? Doesn't that even sound silly? Aren't you more valuable than dive-bombing pigeons and dried-up petunias? Of course you are! But not because there's something valuable in you by yourself.
You're valuable because you are in Christ. Because you are God's child in Jesus. Because the Son of God became what you are. Because He came and took on your flesh. You are valuable because the Son of God gives you value by taking on your sins and taking them to the cross. The value you have is that you have been redeemed, bought back from sin and death by the death and resurrection of Jesus. If the Lord has bought you, claimed you, made you His own, do you think He's just going to throw you to the wolves? Let you starve? Keep you out of heaven after all? No way! You are His. Do you suffer? Jesus has suffered even more. What pain you have from this life, Jesus had more. He came into this world to take every bit of your pain, your suffering, your worry, and all your sins upon Himself, to take them away. When you are tempted to worry, to get cranky about your mammon, to get all worked up over the stuff and junk of this life, then stop a minute and behold the cross and there be convinced and certain that your Father is looking out for you.
So what about your clothing? No worries there. You have been dressed in the robe of Christ's righteousness, given you at your Baptism. By water and the Word, the Lord has claimed you and marked you as His own. You've been given the Spirit, the down payment of your inheritance. Everything is yours in Jesus, Child of God! What about what to eat? A never ending feast: Jesus' body and blood given for you to eat and drink. It won't run out. Because there's no running out of Jesus. He always has more to give. Brothers and sisters in Christ, when you find yourself worrying and fretting and getting all worked up over silly mammon, just look up at the birds. Just look around at the lilies. Come to church and hear all of what God has given you in Christ. Learn of the Father's goodness in and through Jesus.
Now, I know, because I doubt it myself, that all of these gifts of God sound great, but they don't pay the bills. So what then? Do you think that even though the Son of God gave Himself into death for you that just for kicks, the Father is going to watch you starve? Brothers and sisters in Christ: what Jesus is teaching us with His Words today is that the ONE thing that matters is our salvation. EVEN food and clothing are not concerns to God, because He will take care of it.
The Scriptures are full of examples of people who are at the end of their ropes, yet the Father provides for them. For example, the widow we heard about who had nothing left but enough for a last meal for her and her son. Yet the Lord provides for her a never failing bottle of oil and jar of flour. They don't run out. Or consider the children of Israel who wandered in the wilderness for forty years, yet their clothes and shoes never wore out. Consider the preaching of the apostles who had little or nothing of their own, yet were provided for wherever they went.
And what about you? Do you still think that your Lord would give His life for you and then let you starve? If you are down to wondering where even your next slice of bread will come from, then come to your pastor. I'll make you a sandwich. And if I'm down to my last crust of bread, then we'll go to Maggie and Gene's for fresh chicken. And so on, you get the idea. All that clothing and food stuff, that's no problem for the Lord. And even if He were to take it all away. What then? Well, you still have all things in Jesus. You do. You really do.
It's easy to worry about that stupid mammon. Jesus teaches us that such worry is an attempt to serve mammon. But you can't have two masters. So Jesus comes and He has one Master, His Father, to whom He is obedient by dying for us mammon-loving sinners. He gives His life into death for our sins. He rises again to show that He has conquered sin and death and worry about mammon. He has washed and claimed you at the font, clothing you in robes more beautiful than lilies. He feeds you with His own body and blood, a feast far better than the birds get. He has prepared for you mansions in His Father's kingdom, far better than the high-maintenance houses we live in now. So the next time a bid lays a big splatter on your car, just smile and say, "Amen." For that means you have such a Jesus as has gotten you a kingdom and given you His righteousness and will add all the other things too. Amen.
Rev. Mark Buetow is Pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in Du Quion, IL. He is the Internet Services Executive of Higher Things.
Created: September 3rd, 2008