The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity: Jesus Addresses Mammon and Worry

Do Not Worry
Jesus uses the lilies of the field (foreground) and the birds of the air (background) to warn against anxiety and the storing up of treasure on the earth (right) based on Matt 6:24-34 by Veit Dietrich (1562).

Lessons: 1 Kings 17:8-16, Galatians 5:25-6:10, Matthew 6:24-34
Hymns: LSB 754, 760, 598, 713, 725

Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above).

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      Today’s Gospel is in the middle of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. It is His first and longest discourse recorded in Matthew. Jesus preaches this sermon early in His ministry. And not many verses before our Gospel, Jesus trains His hearers to pray by teaching them the Lord’s Prayer.

      The Lord’s Prayer is an important prayer for several reasons. First, it comes directly from the mouth of Jesus. He taught us to pray it, making it an excellent and model prayer. Second, God will most certainly hear us when we pray the prayer He taught us. Third, this prayer serves as a model for other prayers, giving us direction for the many things to pray about. Finally, the Lord’s Prayer may be prayed whenever and wherever. We don’t need a special occasion to pray it. We don’t need to be in the mood for prayer. When we are in great distress and don’t know what to pray, we have learned the Lord’s Prayer by heart and can pray it.

      What’s interesting in the Lord’s Prayer is what it directs us to pray about. The prayer is directed to our Father in heaven. 1) We ask that God’s name be kept holy among which is done when God’s Word is taught in its truth and purity and we, as children of God, live according to His Word. 2) We pray that God’s kingdom comes when God gives us His Holy Spirit so that by His grace we lead godly lives. 3) We pray that God’s will be done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature. 4) We pray that God grants us our daily bread, which includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body. 5) We pray for forgiveness, that, received into God’s favor, we may receive the things for which we pray. 6) We pray for deliverance from temptation so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature will not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. 7) Finally, we pray that God would deliver us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation so that when our last hour comes, God will grant us a blessed end and take us to Himself in Heaven.

      It is not surprising to me that Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer and then almost immediately taught us not to serve two masters—God and money—and to not be anxious (or worry) about our lives. Instead, we are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

      There is a clear connection between the Lord’s Prayer and today’s Gospel. First, when we find ourselves serving mammon or money (and all of us do), then we need to be turning to the Lord by praying the Lord’s Prayer. Second, we learn through this prayer to trust in God who is the giver of every good thing. Third, most of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer speak of our spiritual needs. The Fourth Petition (Give us this day our daily bread) deals with the needs of the body, along with a portion of the Seventh Petition (Deliver us from evil) which asks that God would deliver us from evils done to the body or evils of possessions and reputation.

      This ties in with today’s Gospel because Jesus is showing us the importance of our spiritual needs—to seek first the kingdom of God for life is more than food and the body more than clothing—and to be delivered from an evil master known as mammon.

      When we make up our own prayers (and it is good for us to pray from the heart over the matters that are important to us), we tend to pray for the things in this life. We pray for health, healing, safety, that our children would turn out good, manageable finances, peace at work or in the home, and the like. Most of these requests are prayers that are summarized by “Give us this day our daily bread.” When we pray for unwavering faith, that our loved ones would remain Christian, for our church, pastor, forgiveness, our godchildren’s spiritual welfare, then we are praying for our spiritual needs or the spiritual needs of others. It is good, of course, for us to pray for both spiritual and physical needs.

      But when we spend far more time praying for needs of the body or of this life, then we are probably showing that we need to hear today’s Gospel. We are often falling into the trap of being devoted to mammon or filled with anxiety over matters in this life.

      Both come from trying to control the future, failing to trust solely in Christ, and from becoming enslaved to creation.

      Remember what Jesus promises. If God feeds the birds, He will feed you—for you are more valuable to God than birds are. If God clothes the field with grass or lilies, won’t He also clothe you? God knows that you need food, drink, clothing, and shelter. And so, He will provide. You have His Word on it.

      Often what we fret over the things that go well beyond our basic needs. I read a definition of mammon suggesting that mammon is everything that goes beyond our basic needs for survival. When I look around my house, I see many, many things that are not needed for survival. Too much, really. How much time did I spend getting those things? How much pleasure have I sought from them? How much have they weighed me down because of their cost, clutter, or time commitment? Did they ever provide for my actual needs of the body or soul? Do they hear my prayers? Do they save me?

      Instead, they bind me, weighing me down. When we become enslaved to creation, we are prevented from enjoying God’s wonderful creation. That’s what serving mammon does. So does anxiety and worry. When we are anxious about things we cannot control, we attempt to gain control. We try to take the place of God, as if God were busy, on a journey, or sleeping.

      Jesus shows the frivolity of anxiousness or worry. Who has added any time to his life through anxiety? In fact, we lose time in our lives when we are consumed with anxiety. The more time that is lost, the more anxious we become. It sets us in a downward spiral. It is trying to consume us in our attempt to not be consumed by the unknown.

      Mammon is similar. It never satisfied, and it perishes. The more we get, the more we want, setting us on a downward cycle of never being satisfied.

      True satisfaction comes from God. Let me explain. Every week, we begin our Sunday School hour with the Order for Daily Prayer. We look at a hymn stanza or two. We review a portion of the Catechism. We learn a Bible verse. This Order for Daily Prayer is intended for use throughout the week in the home. There are copies for you to pick up and bring home. The Order for Daily Prayer helps redirect our attention away from the things in life that make us anxious and away from mammon and it directs our hearts and minds to God’s Word. That’s also what reading our Bibles and devotions do.

      Lately, the Order for Daily Prayer has been focusing on “Christian Questions with Their Answers for those intending to go to the Sacrament.” This past week we heard the question, “Why should we remember and proclaim His death?” The answer is “First, so that we may learn to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for our sins. Only Christ, true God and man, could do that. Second, so we may learn to be horrified by our sins, and to regard them as very serious. Third, so we may find joy and comfort in Christ alone, and through faith in Him be saved.”

      Having our hearts fixated on mammon or having anxious hearts will never bring about satisfaction. But as the Catechism states, we remember and proclaim the Lord’s death to believe that no creature could make satisfaction for sins; only Christ could do that.

      What does that mean? That Jesus made satisfaction for sins? Does this mean He is satisfied with our sins? Certainly not! Instead, He had to satisfy the requirements to pay for our sin—to atone for them—to cancel them out. A satisfactory grade in school means the basic requirements have been met. When Jesus made satisfaction for sins, He met the requirements for our sins to be truly and fully taken away. He did so by way of the cross. He died in our place and rose from the grave for our justification. He shed His Blood so we can be declared innocent of all sin—even the sins of worry, anxiety, and loving mammon. We confess our sin that we have loved our stuff and have not trusted in God to provide for us and our loved ones. We confess that we have tried too hard to be in control and haven’t trusted Jesus’ promise that He will take care of us.

      And God forgives us! Even when we immediately seek refuge yet again in mammon—even when those worries arise in us yet again. Jesus keeps on forgiving us. And as much as we may fail to give up worry or serving mammon, Jesus even more so does not fail in rendering satisfaction. He continues to absolve us of all our sins and trespasses.

      And so we keep on praying the Lord’s Prayer. We keep on coming back to God’s house and repent of our sins. We keep on hearing the saving Word of Christ. We keep on going to the Lord’s altar to receive the Body and Blood of Jesus. For through these, Jesus is meeting us with His gifts. He is working in us confidence that He will truly be with us. He is providing for our eternal future. And if He can provide for our eternal future by getting us through this fallen world, defeating Satan, swallowing up death in victory, and coming back on the Last Day, Jesus can certainly get us through our daily lives by providing for us. We have no need to be anxious. For Christ is risen and He grants us the victory. He is in charge of all things. Thanks be to God. Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen