–By Elizabeth Ahlman
“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, 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. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:24-34 ESV).
I don’t know about you, but whenever I read this passage, I think law, law, law. I get all twitchy and nervous about how twitchy and nervous I am. I get anxious over my tendency to be…well…anxious. Certainly, I have failed on the “do not be anxious or unduly concerned, filled with care” score here laid out. My day is filled with worry: will son number one be okay in school today? Will son number two continue to do well post-surgery on his leg? Is one leg looking longer than the other today by millimeters? Is the baby sleeping too long? Not long enough? Am I a good mother? Am I a good wife? Am I being a good steward of that which has been entrusted to me? Will we ever pay off the student loans…? I’m sure you have your own list that extends from those closest to you outward to the world and all that it gives us to be worried about.
But the focus here in this passage is really quite narrow. The focus here is worrying over those things which are our daily bread: food, drink, clothing. This makes sense, given that the first part of this chapter deals with the Lord’s Prayer, wherein we ask the Lord to give us “all that we need for this body and life” (Luther’s Small Catechism). And so Jesus reveals to us what some of our worrying really is: a lack of trust in God our Father to provide all that we need for this body and life; a trust instead in a different master, whether that be money, ourselves, our jobs, etc. This, indeed, is a much-needed dose of the law. We do fail to “fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” I know it about myself. You know it about yourself. That’s the thing about the law. It holds up a mirror, and we don’t like what we see in the mirror, and we don’t know how to replace the image in the mirror. Then we come crashing down in the realization that all our anxiousness not only gets us nowhere, but reveals a deeper problem that we don’t know how to fix.
Usually, when I read this passage, this is about where I’m left. Yes, it’s nice that Jesus says our heavenly Father will take care of us, and while I believe that, I’m still anxious about the day to day sometimes, so it must be that I’m not trying hard enough to get un-anxious. So I look at this text and I see only one impossible command: Get un-anxious.
This weekend, my pastor here in Germany turned that on its head for me with one simple turn of phrase (roughly translated): God cares for/is anxious on behalf of you. (Gott sorgt für dich). In that moment, in the light of the Gospel, I saw the phrase: “be not anxious” not as a law, but as an invitation. For we who are already in the kingdom by virtue of our Baptisms, it is an invitation to take rest in the one who is filled with care and busily about the work of caring for us. We need not seek after God’s kingdom, for it has already sought after and found us. We need not wonder how we go about it, for now that we are in the kingdom, we have been given the words to speak: “Our Father, Who art in heaven…Give us this day our daily bread…” In speaking what has been given to us, we seek already that which belongs to us, we confess the God who is filled with care on our behalf, we accept the invitation to take rest in our heavenly Father. We can do this because Jesus trusted in God above all things on our behalf, forgiving us for our own lack of trust, and freeing us to take refuge from our anxieties in Him.
Even more, Jesus doesn’t minimize our fears or anxieties and He doesn’t deny them. Truly, He speaks, each day DOES have trouble enough of its own. But in each day He stands as Savior and Redeemer, as Brother and Friend, delivering to us the good gifts of the Heavenly Father: “all that we need for this body and life” and “for the life of the world to come.”
Let us Pray: Heavenly Father, You look down on us in tender care and mercy, working to provide us with all that we need for our daily lives; help us to trust and rest in You because of how You have provided for us in the perfect sacrifice of Your Son; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Thank you to Pastor Markus Fischer for a beautiful sermon which inspired more reflection.
- Read last week’s devotion.