Be anxious for nothing (Matthew 6: 24-34)

“Don’t worry, he says.

Easy for him to say. He has an entourage –

he’s living off the generosity of strangers and calling it a gift from God,

he’s well fed – he’s among friends – he’s got nothing to worry about.”

 

It doesn’t take much imagination

to raise an objection to Jesus’ carefree instructions as reported in Matthew’s gospel.

And it takes even less to imagine the circumstances that suggest such a speech.

Jesus is working and living – teaching and healing – in a very particular time and place in the world

It is a world dominated by powerful people

powerful people with influence and money –

It is a world that makes one thing perfectly clear –

money matters, and if you have no money, you don’t matter.

Roman culture was a consumer culture – a culture in which favours were bought and sold

and people were bought and sold –

nothing was unaffected by this attitude, even (especially) religion.

Temple rights and rituals were becoming commodities

(Jesus will eventually take a stand on that in a very vivid way…)

Religious sensibilities were becoming ‘commercialized’, you might say –

and Jesus has clearly seen enough.

 

The main thrust of Jesus’ words as reported in Matthew chapter six is this –

the things we gather about us are useless, in terms of God’s vision and God’s kingdom.

Gather for yourselves treasures in heaven, he says

pray in this way, he says (you’ll remember that prayer)

prepare yourselves for a different kind of living – a different mission –

a totally different worldview:

one that disdains the commercial culture

one that ignores the imagined needs that consume society

don’t worry about what you wear, or what you eat – be anxious for nothing.

 

For those of you who might worry that Scriptural thinking and Christian sensibilities

are out of touch with our quite modern/more advanced cultural situation,

let me remind you of something

our current situation – the situation of the majority of the Christian church

in the western (industrialized/civilized/affluent) world, is this:

we are caught in a culture that emphasizes things –

ie; the more you have, the better off you will be –

and we are trapped in an economic system that enslaves both rich and poor –

ie: neither can ever seem to HAVE (or acquire) enough

the church sits squarely in the middle of that culture and does what, exactly…?

 

Well, we inhabit large, ornate buildings.

We surround ourselves with fine things in the name of sacred space –

we worry about what it will take to keep the lights and heat on…

but hesitate to take steps to remove ourselves from the slavery of the system.

new (or different) buildings are out of the question; leaving the lights off or the heat turned down – even as a sort of protest – would make us uncomfortable …

and, just in case you were starting to think

that Jesus time and problems were too far removed from ours to matter,

even though we make these decisions in all faith and hope

from two thousand years distant, Jesus condemns our approach –

.

Don’t be anxious about anything, Jesus says – yet we cannot contain our anxiety over the future

we would let mission projects suffer for the sake of heat and light

we would worry ourselves to death, and then pray that heaven might forgive us

Make no mistake – Jesus is speaking to us today.

So what are we going to do about it?

Because we’re worried – and why wouldn’t we be…

money is tight – times are hard – and the need to succeed still drives us,

even (especially) in the church.

 

To change – to bow to economic pressures and give in to cultural realities –

is failure for some. But we are consistently called to a different reality – God’s reality –

which doesn’t depend on the things that we have,

nor on the position we think we’ve achieved.

How do we get there – Jesus doesn’t say. Well, he does say,actually:

seek first God’s kingdom, and God’s righteousness – then al these things will be given to you

seek – be eager for the things of God –

be so trusting and so (anxious) for beauty and peace and mercy and love,

that nothing else matters.

Be so concerned with the welfare of one another –

be generous with praise – be thoughtful in prayer –

 

 

Let the things you long for be things no one can see, Jesus says –

things like mercy, justice and love –

and the worries of the world – the things that consume us now –

will be quickly (and gratefully) forgotten.

Live in reverence to God, and you will know how important you really are.

Our sin is that we have tried to establish our importance in our own terms (financial, political, physical & social) the only terms that matter are God’s terms, and Jesus lays them out – lives them out – and is ultimately killed for them – all so we might finally get the point

 

the point is this – we’ve always been anxious – and for all the wrong things.

Jesus calls us to a better way and we should listen…we’d better listen –

because our sanity – our salvation – our divinely inspired purpose – depend on it.

 

 

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