Sermon audio here.
Today our Lord teaches us about two types of worship. He says, “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.”
What we have here is two different liturgies. One liturgy serves the One, True God, and the other serves the god of greed, which goes by the name “mammon”, or money.
Both liturgies have an invocation. Our liturgy begins in Name of God, Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Mammon’s liturgy begins in the name of money, greed, and possessions. But there is no comforting “amen” at the end of this invocation, because mammon is a god that rewards his faithful disciples with anxiety.
Consider the widow at Zarephath. She had very little, “only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug.” But instead of trust in the Lord who provides even for the birds, creatures she far surpassed in value, she was confident of only one thing: that she and her son would eat one more meal and then die. How anxious this woman was!
The widow was praying the wrong liturgy. We do the same thing. Instead of, “In peace, let us pray to the Lord: Lord, have mercy,” we find ourselves reciting mammon’s liturgy: “In worry, let us long for stuff: Lord, give money.”
Like the pagans, we seek after the things of the world, which always leaves us anxious. We never have enough. Our appetites are never satisfied. We should stop and realize, “Hey. This isn’t working. I get bored with the stuff I have quickly. It hasn’t brought me contentment. Maybe I should try something else.”
But instead, we keep on stockpiling those things that always leave us feeling empty and needing more. We keep on singing mammon’s Kyrie, “For the things of this world and for our prosperity, let us worry.”
The liturgy of mammon even has its own scriptures, a collection of writings that we look to for our well-being: bills and bank statements. These aren’t inherently bad things, just like there’s nothing inherently evil about money. But they become an idol when the stuff we have becomes more important than the One who gave it to us. When we commune with the credit card companies instead of Christ, this leaves us anxious and wondering how to pay the bills or if we’ll ever have enough.
Our Lord says:
“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? … And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life? Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”
Notice the solution our Lord provides. It’s not “get more stuff”, but “seek first the Kingdom of God.” As long as you’re fixated on the size of your bank account, you’ll always worry. The solution isn’t to get more, but rather to trust in the One who provides for both your temporal and eternal needs.
Our problem isn’t money, it’s unbelief. Faith rests in Christ regardless of what you do or don’t have. No amount of money will bring peace. If you have a lot, you’ll worry about losing it. If you have little, you’ll worry about getting more.
So when Jesus says, “Don’t worry,” He isn’t so much instructing you as He’s exposing you.[i] When we look at the birds, we see creatures that trust in God’s provision. When they look back at us, they see creatures with little faith in their heavenly Father. Gerhard said,
“In the morning, the bird perches on a branch, sings a little song to God its Creator, and is not concerned about when it will be fed. But how are we by comparison? Our appetite often disturbs our sleep, makes our hearts cranky and sullen, so that we can never praise God with a joyous heart. Thus, the little birds should surely make us blush with shame. For they have never heard God’s Word; they have never received the divine promise; yet, they trust firmly that God will provide for them.”[ii]
So out with it. Confess that the birds put your faith to shame. Confess that your worry is the liturgy of mammon, that you’ve served the wrong master.
And hear Christ, who invites you to leave the liturgy of mammon behind along with its anxiety, to seek first His peaceful Kingdom. It’s a kingdom that couldn’t be any more different from mammon’s. As St. Paul says: “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
That righteousness, peace, and joy come from our Lord Jesus, who did not worry even though He had no place to lay His head. He did not worry as He suffered the blows and insults. As the nails pierced His hands and feet, He was not anxious about what would happen to Him next. With His dying breath He entrusted Himself into the loving hands of His Heavenly Father.
And on the Third Day, He demonstrated that we truly have nothing to fear, not even death. He who breathed life into dust and made it a living being can certainly breathe life into our dust once again.
Through mammon’s liturgy, Satan causes worry and death. But through the liturgy of Christ, the Holy Spirit works faith, which brings peace and seeks the Kingdom of God and His righteousness above all else.
There is no better remedy for materialism and worry than the liturgy of Christ. It teaches us to trust our heavenly Father for daily bread, Who gives us our daily bread in the Body and Blood of Christ, our Bread of Life; Who clothes us in a garment that far surpasses both Solomon’s and the lilies’ in beauty, the Baptismal garment of Christ’s righteousness that never wears out.
Will not the Lord who gives us forgiveness, life, and salvation, much more provide what you need for this body and life? Therefore do not be anxious; your heavenly Father knows what you need. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Soli Deo Gloria
+Rev. Eric Andersen
Based on a 2008 sermon for Trinity 15 by Rev. Randy Asburry
St. Matthew 6:24–34
The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2016
Around the Word Bible Studies
[ii] Gerhard, Postilla, 161–162.