1 Cor 4: 1-5
Matt 6: 24-34
‘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.
‘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?
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 can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry 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 clothed like one of these.
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?
Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Our reading continues in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew’s summary of Jesus’ core teaching on how we should live.
First – our priorities and how often we are doubleminded. If we are honest, I suspect most of us want to serve two masters – we want to make sure our income and pension and future material well-being is secure and we also want to say we put God first and trust God. Someone commented that it is not the passages in the Bible that are hard to understand that are difficult, it is the ones that are easy to understand! Jesus does not discuss people of other faiths, though the Romans and Greeks and those who came from further east had numerous religions. He suggests the dangerous “other” religion is Mammon, or wealth and we are in modern terms addicted, in religious terms we make it an idol. This is a challenge! It is bold brush strokes and it does not mean we should not be good stewards nor concerned for the future, but it reminds us how easily that becomes the be all and end all
Jesus goes on: “Do not worry” – in many ways I find this harder, and it must come across as very harsh for those who are not sure what there will be to eat tomorrow, for those anxious because their children are hungry. And if I am honest, the birds of the air do not always have enough food. But I can see the message being given (I think). It follows on from the previous verses. When we are caught by Mammon, and therefore have lost touch with God, then the material needs of now become everything, and Jesus reminds us that life is more than just getting food and drink in, being clothed.
Jesus takes us back to our priority – seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness / justice.
Some say the Sermon on the Mount is profound and wonderful teaching. I would suggest it is challenging and disturbing and uncomfortable teaching, pushing us to see God and to seek God when the world around us pushes materialism and “me”. As we read this we will be challenged; am I the only one who worries about tomorrow and the future – should I not worry for the future, with the threat of wars, with global warming, with a lack of signposts and a lack of respect for wisdom. Jesus is not asking us not to be concerned for justice, he says seek it. He is asking us not to get caught up in material consumerism, keeping up with the Jones / gentiles. He is pushing for alternative values to be evident in alternative priorities and then alternative behaviours, what some call a countercultural resilience, a dare to be different approach and to find in our acts of generosity, in our acts of mercy, in our time spent in prayer we discover a peace which the world cannot give, not one that pushes away the troubles – ours of other peoples – but which gives an inner strength within them.
And lest we think this is harsh pushy SAS-style teaching, we must remember that Jesus was not an SAS trainer who pushed people to the limit and beyond, but a welcoming, “join-me”, join-in type of person. The door to the Kingdom says Welcome but it is a different door from the one marked Mammon or Materialism or Wealth – if you try and go through two doors at the same time you will smack your head on the intervening door frame and get nowhere!
Rev Peter Reiss