[Read Matthew 6:24-34] “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. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…”
Two Anxieties, One Lord
Two anxieties, one Lord. Anxiety is the fruit of misdirected trust and love, those two things, which results in a wrong fear. It’s about worship. It’s about the First Commandment.
In our Small Catechism we teach the First Commandment like this:
What is the First Commandment? “You shall have no other gods.”
What does this mean? “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”
Our fallen, sinful nature does not want to worship the Creator but rather the creature. In other words, your human nature is fully inclined to place its trust and its love in the created things rather than in God who created the created things.
Love is my hope – to what does my heart cling for its contentment and satisfaction? What do I seek after – what’s the next thing – or what do I grab at to be satisfied with life? Love is sacrificial. For what will I sacrifice? (For what don’t I sacrifice?)
Trust is my security. What in this world must remain secure for me to remain secure? Rather, what do I believe must remain secure for me to remain secure? In what is my faith? “If ‘it’ crumbles, how will I ever stand?”
Anxiety is of such abundance in our time and is so pervasive and so common in our time because, in our time, we have so much in which we put our hope and trust, our love and faith. I have anxiety because my contentment and security are found in things that can fail, things that can be shaken. I love and trust the created things I need instead of the unfailing God who supplies them.
“Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the nations [the Gentiles, unbelievers] seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But [you, believers] seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
First, Number One is the One who provides, God our Father:
“I believe – I trust – that God has made me and all creatures; that God has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and God still takes care of them.”
“He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. God richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” “God defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.”
Not for what I’ve done. Not for what I’ve accomplished. Not because I’m righteous. Instead, it’s for a sinner: “All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.”
“For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him” – to love Him. [Luther’s Small Catechism, Creed, First Article]
There is enough reason to trust and love God alone, and to give Him reverent fear. The events yesterday, twenty years ago, and the events of this past year – and many other national and personal tragedies in between – are, among other things, a reminder that even the most solid things in this life can be shaken. What is normal and secure can, in a moment, become insecure.
In fact, all people, all institutions, and even all nations – including our own – will one day fall. We live in a fallen world. We live daily under the assault of the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature. Great evil and great tragedy remind us that this world is perishing.
In the end, there is only one man who was able to withstand all the assaults of the devil, sin, and death – Jesus Christ – Jesus who suffered all evil to be laid upon Him, who died, and who, on the third day, took up His life again and now lives, never to die again.
And there is one kingdom that stands forever. Not any nation, not our nation, but God’s Kingdom which is forever unshaken. Only the church, God’s eternal kingdom of believers in Christ, will withstand the evil day and will survive all the assaults of the devil, the world, and our own sin.
The natural man’s reaction to tragedy, to collapse, to insecurity, to uncertainty, is to cling to what this world has to offer. To hopes about their nation standing forever. To political philosophies and to political fights. To hatred of another group of people. Turn, instead, from this falling world and to the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your 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? 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? Therefore do not be anxious.” – “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
The love and trust of the heart is worship. We are always worshiping – the heart is always trusting and loving – either God or someone or something else. Good, created things – money, food, clothing, a nation – become objects of false worship when trust and love is not in God first and alone. Because these things cannot stand on their own, anxiety and fear results. Only in loving God our Creator first can we use and relate to these created things rightly and without anxiety.
We have peace by the true worship – the fear, love, and trust in our Savior who alone stands and who alone is righteous. Worship receives that which our God and Savior gives.
Jesus Christ alone has made security for your flesh. He has given Himself on the cross to redeem you, a lost and condemned sinner, and has reconciled you to God by His blood. God showed His love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. His death for you forgives sin, including the sin of our misplaced love and trust – forgiven. His death has conquered the devil’s might. His death has trampled down death. And His return rights this world’s wrongs. Evil is ended, in the world and in me.
The righteousness of God’s kingdom is that sin-fallen man is forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus and made righteous to God by Christ’s blood, all sin having been atoned for by it. Seek the kingdom of God and this righteousness, this forgiveness in the blood of Christ. By this, you stand forever.
Jesus is risen. In Him you too will rise and live to never die again. This is your security. This is your retirement and rest. There you have food and clothing forever. There sin and death and the devil’s assaults are no more. Done. Gone.
For all this, love and trust your Lord Jesus Christ. Fear only offending and losing Him. Worship by receiving what He gives. In Baptism, He clothed you with the eternal clothing, the robe of His own righteousness which covers you. He feeds you the true food and the true drink of His Kingdom in the Lord’s Supper and in the preaching and hearing of His Word. He says, “Whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” [John 6:35]
In Jesus you have the food, the drink, the clothing, the treasure, the world, and the kingdom that last forever that no one can steal or shake or make fall. In worship, in receiving the things that Jesus gives, you have peace. Contentment, security, and peace of the heart, and peace in your flesh, come from what Jesus gives alone.
Trust and love, these two things, cause either the anxiety or the peace of the heart. Let the big thing in your life be that you receive and trust what Jesus Your Savior gives. And, for what He gives, let your heart also love Him – alone and above all things. Amen.