St. Matthew 6:24-34
September 25, 2022 A+D
NO SERMON AUDIO
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The word translated mammon means money. Jesus says: “You cannot serve God and money.” Our old Adam would like to make a distinction worthy of the Pharisees, wherein mammon is a subset of money that was either gotten by illicit means or will be used for illicit pleasure, but we want money itself to be neutral. Jesus issues twin rebukes today: “Stop thinking money is what you need and obsessing over it” and “Do not worry about what you do need. God will provide.”
There is a Kingdom that endures. That Kingdom is populated with sparrows and lilies sustained by undeserved grace. It is a Kingdom made for those whose clothing, food, and drink, whose governments, friends, and family, and whose wisdom, strength, and ability to live by his own code have all failed or will fail. It is a Kingdom made by being thrown into the fire and then drawn out alive. Your heavenly Father knows what you need: forgiveness, salvation, and fellowship with Him. He provides it all for free.
The fire part is the tough part. Our flesh rails against it. We like this body and its pleasures. We like money and luxury. We don’t want to leave it behind. We want our cake and we want to eat it. There probably isn’t a person here who doesn’t know that 1 Timothy 6:10 reads “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” rather than the way it is often quoted “money is the root of all evil.”
But here is the problem. Even as the lawyer wants to find a loophole with the question, “who is my neighbor,” we are all trying to figure how we can get through the eye of a needle and hang on to our stuff. Money is inescapable and it is corrupting. It would be better if it were printed with Caesar’s image on it rather than the words “in God we trust” to help us not forget what it is. There is no such thing as money without an inordinate love of it. Jesus is crystal clear: you cannot serve God and money. We might as well just say money itself is the root of all kinds of evil.
Paul’s explanation in 1 Timothy is a commentary on today’s Gospel. It reads:
Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Ti 6:6–10, NKJ).
The word translated “godliness” would better be translated as piety. The word doesn’t mean to be “like God,” but rather to have the proper attitude or response to God. The proper attitude or response to God is faith that rejoices and gives thanks, recognizing that God is the Giver and we are the recipients. He is the One who looks after sparrows and lilies even though they are weak and mostly ignored by men. He is the One who counts every hair on our heads and who decided to redeem us at His own expense even when we didn’t want Him to. We love because He first loved us. He is the Lover. We are the beloved. To be content with that is great gain, the greatest gain. The insight that Jesus loves us and is working all things together for good, that this world with both its joys and its sorrows is temporary, is rationality itself. It leads to mental and spiritual health.
The opposite of that response and attitude is the desire to be rich. That is the desire to stay in this world, to find pleasure here, to have control over this world. This is not only foolish because this world’s pleasures are temporary, but also because they are only a shadow of what is to come.
Think, for example, how much joy your grandchildren bring you. Now imagine that you die before the oldest is 5 and before all of them are even born. What have you missed? You might say that you missed seeing them grow and fall in love, you missed their many achievements, but probably the main sorrow is that you didn’t get to be an important part of their lives. The names “Grandma” or “Grandpa” makes them think of other people whom they deeply love while you mean almost nothing to them.
That sounds heartbreaking but it isn’t. Those who die in the faith find only gain. They miss nothing. These years are short. Eternity is long. No one is disappointed in heaven. You have an eternity to get to know the grandchildren, to laugh and play with them, to love them. They won’t forget you there. And there you will be free of all jealousy and envy. This is a lesson for the mothers of the holy innocents. They were wrong to refuse comfort. And yet, despite their terrible anguish and refusal, God comforted them anyway. And He keeps comforting them. They’ve had their boys now for over 2000 years and they only suffered here for about 50. And the first number just keeps getting bigger. There is no end to their joy.
This is a hard lesson to put into practice while still in the throes of grief and temptaton, but it needs to be embraced: money is a root of evil. It is not the only root, but it is a big one. The desire to be loved, to be honored, is also a root and its main branch is family. Both evils are founded on the false notion that we need to seek pleasure and worth here. They turn good things into idols rather than seeing them as appetizers foreshadowing the main course.
It is hard to be a sparrow or a lily when what we think would make us happy is being an eagle or a dragon and a mighty oak. But God calls us to weakness, not strength; to humility, not pride; and to follow, not to lead. He is the Leader. We are the acolytes. He is the Teacher. We are the disciples. He is the Giver, the Benefactor, the Provider. We are the recipients. We are called to faith, not to prosperity. Contentment and peace are their own reward, but they aren’t alone, nor are they the end. Even better things are coming.
We are thrown into the fire to be purified and cleansed. He pulls out of the fire by taking our place and delivering us to His place. He desires mercy and not sacrifice. If He gave His life for us, how will He not give us all things? If He told you to make a big fuss in the Euphrates, wouldn’t you do it? Don’t serve money. Don’t worry about your life. Don’t put your value in the opinions of men no matter who those men are. Trust in Christ. Come where He promises to feed and nourish, in simple sacraments and a plain word. Wait on Him and you won’t be disappointed. Rest in His Grace. It will not fail. You are worth more than sparrows.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.