The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Luke 12:22 “And He said to His disciples, ‘For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; and they have no storeroom nor barn; and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? 26 If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why are you anxious about other matters? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. 28 But if God so arrays the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O men of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you shall eat, and what you shall drink, and do not keep worrying. 30 For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you. 32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (NASB)
In last week’s Gospel reading Jesus told the parable of the rich fool who built large storehouses to store his vast wealth and who took great pride in his ability to amass such a fortune. The parable was a warning against greed, coveting, and the god of materialism. Last week’s lesson was summed up in one sentence. “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)
This morning’s lesson is summed up by verses 23 and 32; “Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” and 32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom”. (Luke 12:23)
Last week’s lesson and this week’s appear, at first glance, to be different. They appear to have different targets and a different message. Last week’s lesson was pointed at wealthy people, people who live in abundance, who have more than they need, and whose futures look pretty bright, but who also turn abundance into their god by loving and serving wealth more than they do the God who is God.
This week’s reading is about those who worry that they don’t and won’t have enough to sustain them in this life. This group of people appears to have the opposite problem. The truth of the matter is, both the wealthy group and people who are filled with want, have the same problem. It’s call sin, the law, and the lack of trust in the Lord God.
In Jesus’s world no one escapes the law. Rich, poor, or in-between. Whether you’re a person who enjoys vast wealth, a very comfortable life, and great popularity or you’re a person who worries that you don’t and won’t have a comfortable living and future, your faith is pointed in the wrong direction, your eye and loyalty is set on the wrong things. You are worshiping the gifts than than the Giver of all good gifts.
Christians are people who are suppose to trust in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit for both temporal and spiritual blessings. But rich or poor, believer or unbeliever the problem of trust stems from the same sinful nature.
Jesus knows it too. In fact, He links the problem of the first group and the problem of the second together in verses 21 and 22. Last week’s reading ended this way, 21 “So it is with the one who stores up riches for himself, but is not rich toward God.” This week’s reading began, “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body than clothing.”
In both statements, Jesus puts temporal matters and concerns and spiritual matters and concerns in their proper place. He re-enforces the point with a lesson from nature. 24 “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; and they have no storeroom nor barn” (that’s a bit of jab at the rich people who build great storehouses for their wealth); “and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds!” This is a call to trust, to believe that God will take care of us through the normal course of human activity. We read the same kind of admonition every Thanksgiving when we read Philippians 4:5-7 “The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Worry, anxiety, and fear are emotions that often don’t accomplish much over the long haul. Verses 25-26, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why are you anxious about other matters?”
There’s that principle I have talked about in Bible class. The principle of “the lesser to the greater.” If you can’t do anything or have an effect over a little thing, then you have even less influence over a larger set of circumstances of the same sort of thing. If you can’t worry yourself into even a slightly longer life, then how will you be able to worry yourself into eternal life? The answer is clear. You can’t. That’s why “all is vanity and striving after wind.”
Jesus’s argument doesn’t stop there. He moves on to another kind of argument, one of contrast. He contrasts the glory of the greatest of all kings in Israel, King Solomon with the natural, God adorned glory of the lilies of the field. 27 “Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these.”
Solomon had to work hard for his wealth and earthly glory. And even Solomon had to admit that such works pass away. 1:14 “I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.”
The lilies do not strive after the wind. The lilies just do what lilies do. Take root, live, grow, and wear the glory that God has clothed them in for the time that God has given them. Yet as pretty as they are, lilies were not created in the image of God. Lilies are of a lower and vastly different kind of being than human beings.
28 “But if God so arrays the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you, O men of little faith!”
Compared to the ravens and the lilies, to animals and plants you are so much more valuable to God, yet you/we don’t act like we are. We act like God isn’t the giver of all good gifts. We act as if He is not our dear Father and we are not His dear children because we do not trust and believe as we ought. We do not look at all of life through the lense of our baptismal adoption into God’s holy family.
In this part of the Luke chapter 12, Jesus is talking about and to Christians. He is not talking about and to a rich man whose faith is all tied up in his possessions. Jesus is addressing Christians, but Christians of “little faith.” Christians who in moments of weakness have anxiety attacks triggered by the momentary belief that God isn’t going to take care of His dear children.
That’s the same problem the disciples had in the boat. The disciples were in a boat caught in the midst of a tempest. Jesus was asleep in the boat. They were all in great fear, worried for their lives that the boat might be swamped so they woke Jesus up and said, “‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing!’ 26 He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.”
The Season of Pentecost is about the Christian life. What does it mean to believe and trust in Christ Jesus, to follow after Him, and abide in His Word the in every day ordinary course of life? And the first lesson we learned was that God is truly our Father, our dear Father and we are His dear children. Now we are learning that He will watch over and take care of us, even though we fall prey to sinful thoughts, engage in sinful deeds, and grow weary and anxious over matters we ought to simply place into the hands of God.
All the lessons so far read teach the same lesson. God our Father has, does, and will continue to act as our loving Father. In these three Gospel lessons (and in some of the other readings) we are learning that God our Father not only forgives our sins, gives us His Word and Sacraments in the church, He provides for our daily needs in a multitude of ways, and promises to take us to heaven when we wear out these physical bodies.
Now some will say that what Jesus is calling on us to do is to have a simple change in attitude like that goofy song, “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” He is teaching us much more than that because as creatures of flesh and blood, body and soul, sinners and saints, we simply can’t stop worrying. We can turn it off when it comes to our families. We can shut it down when our ability to earn a living is in question, or our financial future is in doubt. We can’t even stop worrying over our past.
Just as material possessions, money, and the praise of other people can unseat God as God and take His place in our hearts and minds, so can fear and worry over the most ordinary of things. That’s the kind of angst/worry/ anxiousness that Jesus is warning against here. He is warning against the kind of anxiety that pushes all thoughts of a caring and providing Father out of our minds. He is warning against the kind fear that gets in the way of trusting God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He is teaching us something about ourselves and something about the Lord God.
To the rich He says,“One’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” and now to the commoner who worries about the very staples of life, “life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” He said the same thing to Satan in the wilderness temptation in regard to Himself. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’” The difference between Jesus and us is that we fall prey to temptation all the time and He never did.
To the rich man in the parable God said, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:20) But here to His disciples, that includes us Jesus says, 32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32) To calm our fears about the present and future, Jesus points us to something our heavenly Father has already done for us. He has chosen gladly to give us the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus returns to an argument of contrast. Verses 30 & 31 “For all these things [temporal and material] the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek for His kingdom, and these things shall be added to you.”
For the record. Jesus doesn’t have anything against work. As a matter of fact the Bible makes it clear that Christians are to be about doing good, about providing for our families, working for our bread, and of being of value to our neighbors.
There were some Christians in the churches of Thessolonica who decided they’d take the message of not worrying about food and clothes to heart along with the promise of Christ’s second coming. They didn’t worry about a thing. They were so unconcerned and so trusting, they stopped working to earning a living and relied on their fellow members of the church to feed them. They became free loaders and dead-beats. To them St. Paul wrote, “if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either.”
Christians need not fear. We need not be afraid of God or man. “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It is after all how greets us time and time again in the Scripture, “Fear not.”
When Jesus says, “Do not be afraid little flock,” He is telling us what we were made to be in the Water and the Word. We’re God’s little flock. He is our Good Shepherd and a good shepherd leads, feeds, and protects his flock. We are His children and He is our Father.
When you worry and grow anxious, remember you are a baptized son or daughter of God the Father, brother and sister to Jesus Christ. When you are afraid, remember Christ Jesus has redeemed you from sin, death, and the power of the devil and has adorned with with a glory more glorious than all the accomplishments of King Solomon and more glorious than even the lilies of the field. For they will whither and fade away, but you will never fade away.
May the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
James 1:16 Do not be [b]deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or [c]shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be [d]a kind of first fruits [e]among His creatures.
Ps. 94:If I should say, “My foot has slipped,”
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, will hold me up.
19 When my anxious thoughts [a]multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.