Faithfulness – Sermon 2-27-11

Psalm 131

1 O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me.

2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

3 O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forevermore.

Matthew 6:24-34

24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

26 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?

27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,

29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

31 Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or “What will we drink?’ or “What will we wear?’

32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Today we have entered into a new section of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. No longer are we in the beatitudes, and no longer are we working our way through Jesus’ 6 antitheses statements. As I am sure we have all noticed over the past couple of weeks, Jesus has been talking to a crowd of both disciples and non-disciples, and today the crowd remains the same. However, as we look back over this sermon, Jesus has been preaching on some pretty tough subjects. The main topic I suppose that had underlain this sermon is the people of God in the fullness of God’s reign. I believe what we are beginning to see here is Jesus sharing with the people what they are now to do in light of God’s Kingdom. With this in mind, today I am going to break down these scriptures from Matthew into three parts. First we will look at verse 24 (Here is where I am going to spend most of my time), then verses 25-33 and finally we will look at verse 34.

In verse 24, Jesus says something that will catch the attention of a first century Jew, Gentile, or even a 21st century United States Citizen. No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. There are many organizations that adhere to this saying of Christ, but have no idea that they have. For example, I remember when I joined the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Co. I had to fill out an application. As I filled out the application, one of the questions that I was asked was, “Was I serving with any other volunteer Fire and Rescue Organization?” As I was filling this application out I thought this to be quite a strange question, so I went and asked someone about it. I immediately went in defensively saying, I am not serving with another company, but why does this matter? They said that they knew if you were serving on another local company then your loyalties would be split and thus they felt they could not count on you as a volunteer Fire or Rescue. I think this is exactly what Jesus is talking about, but in a much bigger way, a much more important way, a way that reflects life and death. What is underlying this statement of Jesus I believe to be a concern of the people’s faithfulness to God. So why does Jesus pick on the wealth? Well, as I have often heard people talk about their livelihood, I have often heard people speak about if only they could get another raise, or if I just had a little bit more money I would be satisfied and thus would be “COMFORTABLE”. I suppose this is time for confession as I’m guilty of this line of thinking myself at times.

It’s a funny thing about being comfortable, comfortable only lasts a very short while for a consumer nation. There is always something that is going to come out that is gong to make life just a little bit more comfortable and a little bit more comfortable, and so these desires to have just a little bit more money to be set, are truly a false hope, a false sense of security. One is never going to achieve final comfort ability in the consumerist model.

But back to this reason Jesus picks on wealth. As I said before, what is underlying this message from Jesus is all about faithfulness. Are you faithful to God or are you faithful to money? Do you put your trust in money to make your livelihood, or do you put your trust in God? Does your obedience lie with money or with God? Does your actions or public confession lie with trust on money or with God? What I mean by this last question is, when people look at you and talk with you, do they find that you have built up a security in your life because of your faithfulness to God or does it show that you have built your foundation on the money of the world? The reason I believe Jesus chose money to talk about, is because it is often money, or better, things that possess monetary value, before God. As I thought about this, I began to wonder to myself, why is it this way? Why is it that we place so much emphasis on our security, our livelihood on materialistic things in the world. I will give a perfect example, Why is it that I would become more worried if I were to break my Kindle than worry about losing God’s blessing? Why is it that we worry about a car accident more than we worry about God’s providence? Why is it that when our house needs repairs we tend to worry more, than worry about being seen righteous in the eyes of the Lord? As I thought about this, and pondered about it, and talked with a few people, I came to this conclusions:  we are a broken people and thus live in sinfulness and not live in the ways God intends for us to live. So what do we do with this? With this brokenness in mind, the biblical example of God in relationship with us is like a parent to a child. And with this relationship, sometimes those relationships are ruptured or broken, but the love may still remain. For an example, in the scriptures we have all heard about the story of the Prodigal Child. The father and the youngest son had a falling out, but when that child came to accept the grace offered by the father upon his return, the love for his son had remained. In the understanding of Christ’s message to us, Jesus is speaking to us about our faithfulness to our Father in heaven, and this faithfulness Jesus later in Matthew and again in Mark speaks about. In Matthew, Jesus says that, Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” What does Jesus mean by this child like faith. Well let’s again think about this parent child relationship between God and us and that of a parent and child. Often as adults our faithfulness to something or someone is contingent upon losing it. For instance, I am faithful to the maintenance of my car because I am afraid that if I do not take care of it I will lose it. However, the faithfulness of child is not contingent upon anything at all. I was watching a TV show in the wee hours of Friday early morning about a mother who was pregnant while in jail. While in jail she had a child at home with her mom, two children lived with the father who was not allowed to see her, and she was expecting another child. During the interview with the daughter who lived at home with her grandmother told the camera, I love my mom and although she is in jail I think she is the best mom I could have ever asked for. Although her mother was in jail, she still remained faithful to her mom. We see it all the time in the social services; the children who are neglected or abused still have their faithfulness to their parent. This is the kind of faith the God desires from his children, not because he is need of our love or support, but for the same reason any parent desires to have a healthy and good relationship with their children, because they were a part of creating, forming their own child. And God is by far the perfect parent in this desire of forming and bonding with God’s creation. It is rather interesting that in Gospel according to Matthew, we have Jesus’ underlying message to do with money and faithfulness when in the Gospel of Mark, this is more evident and clear. Let me skip over to Mark for just a second or two. Mark 10:13-27 says,

13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ “20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Just want to point out one particular thing in this passage, This is the only passage in the New Testament that it ever says Jesus Loved Him, and then Jesus goes on to say to go and sell all of your possessions. Why sell these things, because of faithfulness. We cannot attain our own salvation, but it is only by God’s grace that we will ever be saved, and thus we need to respond to God’s grace and be responsible with it by being faithful to God, faithful as a child. This does not mean we do not grow in our understanding and lack knowledge like a child, but we are to remain faithful to God as a child.

I really need to move on to the next few points of this sermon I suppose.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

26 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?

27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?

28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin,

29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.

30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

31 Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or “What will we drink?’ or “What will we wear?’

32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

This goes on about the understanding of wealth. In the times of Jesus it was not necessarily all about the new gadgets or the fancy cars, but it was about the good looking clothes and eating the luxurious foods. Jesus is saying that these worldly desires will crave our attention because we will begin to worry about them and distract us from what is important in life, or better distract us from what is life giving: God. Jesus recognizes and acknowledges that these things in our life, food, clothes, drink are all necessary things, but it will be God who provides them, not yourself. God desires us to live in a healthy relationship with him and in doing so, God provides for our needs not because we have earned it, but because as a loving parent, God cares for his creations. The key verse of this passage is I believe in verse 30. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, you of little faith? Here is Jesus naming the underlying message of being faithful to God. Where is your trust truly placed?

Finally, Verse 34 says, So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. What is Jesus talking about. Is Jesus talking about simply taking everything a day at a time? Or is Jesus speaking about more? I believe it could be understood as both. Do not worry my dear believer for the opposite of faith is worry. But I also believe Jesus may be saying be faithful to me and do not worry about future judgment, my grace, my gift to you is sufficient enough. Be responsible with my Grace and respond with great faithfulness.

References:

Some material was used out of N.T. Wright “After you Believe” as well as class material/discussion from Christian Ethics with Mark Nation at Eastern Mennonite Seminary.

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