Jean’s Gospel: Do Not Be Anxious
“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.” (Matt 6:24)
When Christ calls us through the Gospel into His kingdom, He dethrones the lord of the world, who commands the idols we previously served, and becomes our Lord. Our old lord, Satan, although defeated and disarmed by Christ at the cross, does not leave us entirely alone. He remains capable of whispering lies and accusations to us. Therefore, two lords contend for us, but a disciple of Christ serves only Christ.
“for either he will hate the one and love the other”
Idolatry occurs when a Christian takes something, such as money, which he should be lord over, and allows it to become lord over him. When this happens, Christ is dethroned and we no longer serve Him. Christ refers to this as hating Him. Let us look at three examples from the three estates into which God places us:
Society. When a governing official is taken captive by avarice, He can no longer serve as God’s servant for our good (Rom 13:4). Antipas’ covetousness cost John the Baptist his head (Matt 14:3-11). Today it is not uncommon to learn of governing officials who tip the scales of justice, legislate and/or show partiality on account of avarice.
Church. When a pastor or priest is driven by avarice, He can no longer serve as God’s servant of His Word, which is to preach without partiality, rebuke sin and proclaim the Gospel. The avarice of the temple priesthood led to the violent rebuke by Jesus, who said: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of robbers.” (Matt 21:13) Today it is not uncommon to learn of pastors and priests who cover up abuse, adultery and other sins, or who change the message of the Gospel, on account of avarice, in violation of their oaths to serve as Christ’s under-shepherds.
Family. When laity, particularly parents of young children, are drawn into any of the idolatries which occupy our culture, Christ and His Word often are the first casualties. For example, if “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17), what do you suppose happens to faith if we stop hearing? What are we willing to suffer or do without to hear God’s Word addressed to us? Is the Gospel worth getting up on Sunday morning? Missing a soccer game? Making an offering at church? Teaching God’s Word to our children? If Christ is our master and the Gospel offers treasure in heaven, will we treasure gathering together as His body to receive His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation, through hearing His Gospel and receiving His sacraments?
“or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”
One who serves his master, Christ, is devoted solely to Him, as the Psalmist sang: “I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.” (Ps 73:23-24) To be devoted to Christ means we are to receive His gifts and trust His promises. His gifts mold our will to His will like a father holding and leading a beloved child.
Jesus was devoted to the will of His Father. He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant (Phil 2:7), living not by bread alone, “but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4) This is what it means to be poor in spirit. The blessed poor in spirit have Christ as their master; they live from His Word. And it is to the poor in spirit that Jesus gives the kingdom of heaven (Matt 5:3). When you have Christ and His kingdom, everything else is trivial by comparison.
“Therefore I tell you, 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, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matt 6:25-32)
Just as Satan tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread, Satan tempts us through our bodily needs to turn from Christ and seek our bodily needs in idolatry. Even though we cannot guarantee the future or the length of our lives, Satan would have us follow him rather than the Creator of heaven and earth. When we slip into unbelief, one of the first symptoms is anxiousness.
Here Jesus gently says to us: “Repent of your unbelief. Your Father who looks after the lower things in creation, such as the birds and the lilies, is capable also of looking after you; but He is not only capable of it, He loves you above all the rest of His creation and knows what you need, so do not be anxious; He will provide for you.”
How do we know this? We know this because Jesus laid down His life for our sins and was raised from the dead to give us a gracious God whom we call Father. That is how much God so loved the world! Therefore, for those in Christ, there is nothing to be anxious about.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt 6:33)
Jesus knows all too well that in ourselves we are not capable, nor willing, to believe or obey Him. Almost off the cuff, Jesus refers to His own disciples as “evil” (Matt 7:11). Therefore, the blessed poor in spirit seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Our relationship with God is not begun, continued or finished on the basis of our own righteousness, but solely by the righteousness of the One who fulfilled the Law and the Prophets for us (Matt 5:17), who was baptized by John “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15) for us.
Therefore, the Divine medicine for anxiousness, Jesus says, is to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. We do this by continuing in His Word, gathering as His Church to hear the Gospel and receive the Sacraments, and by prayer, particularly the Lord’s Prayer: May He sanctify us with His holiness; give us His kingdom; provide us with our daily bread; forgive our sins; etc.
We seek because we currently live in the already/not yet tension of salvation. We walk by faith, not by sight. Yet even in the midst of this seeking, Jesus promises: “and all these things [bodily necessities] will be added to you.” Therefore, there is nothing for us to be anxious about. Amen.
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Amen.