The keynote is really struck in the first sentence of the Holy Gospel this morning. Jesus says: “No one can serve two masters.” Jesus is giving us some straight talk here. And it’s plain and simple. Either one is in service to God and His kingdom or he’s in league with the devil. Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters.” Because either a person will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can’t serve God and mammon.
The First Commandment is that you shall have no other gods. And a person’s god is whatever he clings to as the greatest and highest good. It’s whatever he finds comfort in, what he trusts in. It’s what he fears losing more than anything else.
Here’s some more straight talk. The most common god of this world is not the true God, the God who made the heaven and earth and all that dwells within it. No, the god worshipped above all, and paid homage to above all, is a false god called mammon. It’s money, worldly success, and material comfort. Folks will sacrifice everything in order to get it and worry themselves sick in the process. They’ll deny themselves a thousand joys, rest, and comfort to achieve it. They’ll sacrifice friendship, honor, and a good conscience – even their very life – to get it and keep it. Mammon, money and earthly riches, are thought to be the key to true happiness. And there is nothing people fear more than the loss of the favor of this god, mammon. It leads to almost endless fear and anxiety.
Jesus compares God and mammon to two masters, two slave owners. And obviously you can only have one master.
And here lies the problem for us. Because we have only one heart, and if we fill it up with earthly cares, we leave no room for the love of God. Faith and anxiety cannot live together, for if faith does not cast out anxiety, anxiety will cast out faith. It’s simple really, either God is to be depended upon, or He is not. If He is trusted, there is no room for anxiety. If He is not to be trusted, well then, there is no room for faith.
Think our Lord is being too hard on worriers? Think again. The word for anxiety in the Gospel today comes from a Greek word, which actually means “division.” That’s right: to have anxiety is to have a divided heart. Thinking one can serve two masters, two gods at once, but that’s impossible! Jesus’ words this morning are straightforward: no one can serve two masters.
To bring home the point, our Lord starts preaching to us about birds and lilies: “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about the body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 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? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
Reflecting upon these words, Martin Luther preached the following to his congregation in 1534: “Look up at those birds flying before us in the sky. Do they not put us all to shame! For we might well take off our hats to them and say, ‘My dear teacher, I confess that I don’t have the art that you have. You sleep all night long in your little nest without a care in the world. In the morning, you leave your nest; you are happy and bright; you sit on the limb of a tree and sing, you praise, and give thanks to God. Then you go out looking for your little kernel of grain and find it. What a shame! Why haven’t I, old fool that I am, learned to do the very same!”
Our Lord holds before us the example of birds to put us to shame. Because those birds aren’t stressed out like you! They’re not nervous wrecks with divided hearts – and faithless fears. Our Lord is saying, “Live like the birds – learn to believe, sing, be happy, and let your heavenly Father do all the caring for you. For what are you accomplishing if already you are worrying yourselves to death!”
Then Jesus directs our eyes to the flowers: “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.” A simple lily or wildflower on the side of the road as you came to church this morning is adorned with such glory that even all the splendor of King Solomon is nothing compared with it.
So then, if God so feeds the birds and adorns the flowers with such beauty, though here today and gone tomorrow, will He not much more nourish, feed, and clothe you!
Jesus says, “Therefore, seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”
This is a gentle call and warm invitation from our Lord to have an undivided heart toward Him. To love Him. To believe in Him. Trust in Him. And to live by faith. Putting first things first.
The Lord presents to us this morning birds and lilies to be our teachers, preachers, and theologians. To know and believe that if God can be trusted with those greater things, the eternal things, things like your heavenly future and your eternal salvation, how can you possibly doubt His desire to take care of every little earthly need as well? Of course, God is more than up for the task.
Saint Paul lays this out so clearly in Romans, chapter 8, when he asks, “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?” Got that? All things! If we can trust in Him to save us from sin, death, and hell, how can we possibly doubt that He is willing to put a little food on your table, and see to it that you’re taken care of?
But God knows our tendency toward mistrust, unbelief, and an anxious, divided heart. So God sent His Son for the likes of you. And unlike you, His heart was not divided. Not one bit. The heart of Jesus was filled with nothing but love for the Father and also for you. He obeyed the Father’s will to save you.
Loving sinful, anxious, divided man with a love that was unstoppable. Venturing forth to die that we might live. He was crucified, died, and was buried. On the third day He rose. This is the foundation of our faith.
What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear? Commend your life to God, seek His salvation, and entrust your daily life to His loving care.
Jesus is teaching the disciples this morning to live as though their heavenly Father actually loves them, because in fact He does!
So what is the most important thing to remember today? Jesus gives us some straight talk: “You cannot serve God and money.” They each require two totally contrary forms of worship. Worry is the worship given to the false god of mammon, an unbelieving anxiousness and focus on the things of this world. Faith, on the other hand, is the worship of the true God, a confident trust that He is a loving Father who will care for all our needs.
In our first reading from the Old Testament this morning, you saw the widow of Zarephath serving God. She believed the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah that the bin of flour would not be used up nor would the jar of oil run dry.
Folks, this same God who feeds the birds and clothes the flowers will certainly provide for your daily needs as well. For He has already provided for our eternal needs, our greater needs, first. He has done so by clothing us with His Son’s own righteousness in Baptism. And He does so by feeding us His body and blood for our forgiveness. With such confidence, we are completely liberated from worry and freed to do good with our material resources, not clinging to them too tightly, but giving, sharing, and providing for others, as God has provided for us, especially to those who are of the household of faith, our brothers and sisters in church.
Most importantly, through faith in Christ, and by the gift of the Spirit, we learn to cheerfully and gladly serve God with an undivided heart, filled with nothing but love for Him and love for our neighbor. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
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OFFERINGS TO LMC
Please remember your gifts to LMC. There are a few options to give:
- You can mail your weekly offerings to the church.
- You can also do an online bill pay through your bank account, which can reoccur each month. Your bank then sends LMC a check with your offering. There is no cost to you or LMC for this.
- You can set up online giving through an App called Tithe.ly. There is a small fee associated with this transaction. You may find this option at www.lmcusc.org/give.