Matthew 6:24-34
Trinity 15

In the name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit

Jesus said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Notice what our Lord says there.  Each day is going to have trouble of some sort.  God never promised that if you just have enough faith and do the right things, then everything will go smoothly for you.  There is no promise that if you’re a Christian you’ll have a life of happiness and pleasure and a comfortable retirement.  Our heavenly Father does promise that He will take care of you according to His good and gracious will.  But that doesn’t mean your lives will be without difficulties and afflictions and crosses.  For our Father in heaven is also at work through those things, too, for your eternal good.  You live under the curse of sin.  Your old Adam needs to be put to death if you are to arise and live forever with the Lord.

So don’t be surprised when times of trial come, when the body starts giving out and you’re flat on your back in a hospital bed, when the finances suddenly take a dive, when it feels like the foundations of your life are shaking beneath your feet.  I’ve seen it happen too often that people are unprepared when this happens to them, and then they wonder if God really cares for them or if He’s punishing them or if He’s even there at all.  And then anxiety takes over.  We should remember  what happened to Job in the Old Testament, how He was afflicted with sores from the top of his head to the soles of his feet.  Job’s wife wasn’t any help; she said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”  But Job said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”  Earlier, when Job had lost not only property but even suffered the death of all his children, he grieved greatly, but said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  That’s how faith speaks.  “Though He giveth or He taketh, God His children ne’er forsaketh.”  Faith knows that as long as it’s from the Lord, we can accept whatever He sends in the confidence that He knows what He’s doing, that His ways are far higher than ours, and that He is a loving heavenly Father who cares for His children.  He will not forsake us but will provide us with everything that we need in Christ.

Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel about how our heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air without them having to plant and harvest and store their food in barns.  And you are of much greater value than they are.  He will feed you, too.  But Jesus also says elsewhere that not one of these birds falls to the ground apart from the Father’s will–which means that sometimes it is the will of the Father that they fall to the ground and die.  His caring for the birds does not mean that the effects of the curse are removed from them–or us.  Likewise, what is it that happens to the lilies and grass of the field which God beautifully clothes?  Jesus says that it is here today, and tomorrow it is thrown into the oven as fuel to bake bread.  It has a purpose even in withering away and dying.  We know that there were a number of Christian martyrs who were put to death by being thrown into the fire, burned at the stake.  Would we really say that God had forsaken them, or would we say that there was some greater purpose which He was working in their suffering, their great witness to Christ?  So it is, then, also with us and all His baptized children.

And the fact of the matter is that when it comes right down to it, our worries regarding food and clothing and bodily needs are often over comparatively minor things.  I don’t think that anyone here is in danger of going without a meal or not having food in the fridge or not having any clothes to wear.  Our issue is that we are always wanting something more, something better–to be able to go out to eat more often, to have finer and more flattering clothes.  Our worries are about meeting societal standards, being able to have something to show off on social media.  It’s the fear of missing out, not being able to do and enjoy what everyone else is doing and enjoying, of not being able to live out our dreams.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that rates of anxiety and clinical depression are much higher in prosperous countries than they are in poorer ones.  We have loftier expectations and desires that aren’t being met, and so we’re stressed.  Our worries get exaggerated because we link our identity to mammon, money and material things which by their very nature are untrustworthy and temporary and which create anxiety to hold onto–or because we overspend on these things and get ourselves so into debt that it’s hard to climb our way out of those holes we’ve dug for ourselves.

Of course, some of our worries are not insignificant–when we see loved ones suffering from various afflictions, when we are concerned about a friend or family member who has turned away from Christ and His Church, when we see God’s created order being rejected by the world, when our safety is threatened.  Our Lord’s exhortation not to worry and not to be anxious doesn’t mean that these things that weigh on our mind are unimportant, but that the way we are dealing with them is misguided and not right. 

Jesus is saying here that worry is a symptom of a spiritual problem.  Worry is the opposite of faith and prayer.  Worry is what we do when we doubt that God is really in control or when we aren’t sure that He actually cares and is paying attention.  And so we try to take over His job with our worrying and anxiety.  We think it all depends on us and our plans and our managing of the situation, that it’s all in our hands.  When we’re worrying, we aren’t trusting in Him, are we.  When we’re worrying, usually we’re trying to control what is not ours to control but the Lord’s.
Unbelief worries, but faith prays.  Faith doesn’t deny that there are real problems to deal with; it doesn’t pretend everything will be all rosy if we just try to stay positive.  But faith knows that in the end, everything is in God’s hands, not ours.  And so it looks to Him for help and deliverance  and mercy, confident that He will work all things together for our good just as He has promised us.  By faith we trust in the Scriptures which say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son but delivered Him up for us all [on the cross], how will He not also with Him freely give us all things that we need?”

And here’s another reason why we shouldn’t worry: it’s an attempt to live in the future, which is impossible and pointless for us.  Worry is the attempt to try deal with the problems of tomorrow and next week and next month and next year all today.  No wonder you feel overwhelmed.  You can’t live in the future; only the God who lives outside of time can deal with the past and present and future all at once.  You’re not God.  So just stick with today.  That’s why Jesus says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

The Lord graciously invites you to trust that your lives are in the His hands and that He will care for you according to His gracious will, even when it seems like you’re getting to the breaking point.  Do not engage in worry but in prayer.  Worry produces stress, but prayer produces peace.  For it dwells upon the sure words and promises of God.

Prayer says such things as, “Father in heaven, you know all the things I need, even before I ask for them.  You feed the birds of the air, which are a dime a dozen.  Help me to trust that I am more valuable in your sight than the birds and that you will feed and sustain me even in the midst of my troubles.  And dear Father, you splendidly clothe the lilies of the field, even though they are little more than the grass.  Give me to believe that you will also clothe me and take care of me.  Keep me from worrying about tomorrow, and give me a thankful heart for the gifts you give day by day.  The world is passing away, but your Word of mercy and life will never pass away.  It will save and sustain me forever.”

Faith prays in that way because of what Jesus has done.  For He is the One who made us children of the heavenly Father.  In order that we would be delivered from a world that is falling apart and winding down to its end, the eternal Son of God entered into this fallen world as one of us, as our blood brother.  Jesus took upon Himself the curse that our sin has brought on creation.  All the deterioration and the degeneration and the death He endured for us on the cross.  In so doing, Jesus caused death itself to die.  Jesus destroyed the sin that makes everything only momentary and impermanent.  He proved that by coming forth from the grave in power, the beginning of a new creation that will never deteriorate or fall or perish, for death no longer has dominion over Him.

Trusting in Jesus, knowing all that He has done and prepared for us, our worries and fears are calmed.  We can turn away from the wallowing in self-pity and the despair and the anger.  For if God has provided so bountifully for our eternal needs, certainly He will care for us in all the necessities of this temporal life.  And even when the hard times do come, even if it’s all taken away and God’s care seems to have vanished, we know that we who are His chosen, baptized people are not forsaken.  We believe that even when terror and tragedy, sickness and death come, He who created us can and will also recreate us in the resurrection of the body on the Last Day.  So literally nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ.  And if we have Christ, then we have everything; for all things belong to Him, and in Him all things hold together.  

“Do no worry about your life,” Jesus says.  Work hard, yes.  Plan ahead, certainly.  But don’t worry.  It’s all ultimately in God’s hands, anyway.  Live like who you are, children of the heavenly Father, who has loved you to the point of giving you His own Son with all of His righteousness as a gift.  Give up merely trying to live the good life in this passing world, and seek the truly good life in the eternal kingdom of God.  Set your heart on that, and everything else will be added to you.

To assure you of this, the Father who clothes you and cares for your body has robed you in the white garment of Christ’s righteousness in your baptism.  The Father who gives you daily bread now feeds you Jesus’ true body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  So, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble; that is true.  And remember also these words of Jesus, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
In the name of the Father and of the ✠ Son and of the Holy Spirit