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Sermon for Ordinary 8 Year A

By The Rev Eric Royden

 

Turning to our gospel reading we find we find Jesus making three points. First that of loyalty; that no person can serve two masters. Secondly, that there is no cause to worry. Thirdly, that we should live righteously.
Mark Twain was rebuking a Mormon who had two wives and the Mormon said, ‘can you show me any part of Scripture which forbids polygamy’. Twain answered, ‘certainly. No man can serve two masters’. That was not what Jesus had in mind however.
In Jesus time there was slavery and Roman law forbade a slave having two masters. A slave became a possession not a person, and the Master had complete control of his life. Some Masters were good, others bad, and Jesus is depicting God as a good Master, and so God should have undisputed claim on a Christian’s life. At no time can we relax Christian standards.
Jesus says you cannot serve God and Mammon. Mammon was a Hebrew word for material possessions, and meant that which a person puts their trust in. These can occupy a place in our life they are not meant to have, and at the heart of Jesus teaching is that all things belong to God. The Bible saying, ‘the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof’.
Possession of material things is not a sin but a responsibility. But the question arises, how do we get those things. By honourable means, or foul. How do we use them, selfishly or wisely, even helping others.
Money in itself is not evil. The Lord Himself commends the good use of money - stewardship and wisdom as we use our money. As we come to these words of Jesus today, the Lord is warning us of the grave dangers that are inherent within laying up money, and indeed laying up any treasures, whatever they may be. The Lord is not simply speaking about money, He is speaking about anything that is to us a strength, anything that is a possession that we prize and that we hold to dearly. It can be money; it can be absolutely anything
There is the question of priority. A business man once said, “on Sunday my priorities are God, family business, but on Monday to Saturday the reverse order.” Jesus is saying, “you love the one which claims your devotion, but hate the other.”
Then Jesus deals with worry.
A man went to a psychologist and said, "Doctor, sometimes I feel like a Marquee and at other times I feel like a Wigwam." The doctor thought about it for a moment and then he said, "I better treat you for anxiety. You're two tents!"
Anxiety however is no joke. In our world, stress is a way of life and so many people are filled with anxiety about so many things. Health, children, mortgage, work, keeping up with friends. I am sure the list could go on and on. There may be anxiety in most of your life with unresolved issues, nagging problems, worries over finances, work, and relationships. What success have you had in dealing with these kinds of problems? Have you perhaps accepted worry and anxiety as a natural part of your life?
Many Christians can take the things which worry them to God in prayer and find that God responds, whilst others seem to put little trust in praying when things get hard. From personal experience I have learned He really does answer.
Of course, we are not the first people to experience stress and anxiety, although we may think that ours is greater than anyone else's. Anxiety, however, has been around for a long time. And it has been afflicting us for centuries. In Jesus' day, anxiety was everywhere, as it is today. The people standing on that mountainside when He delivered the Sermon on the Mount were no different than you or me. They had to deal with the problems of paying their bills, feeding their families, pleasing their employers, raising their children, paying their taxes and saving for the future just like we do.
What would Jesus say to them to help them deal with the pressures and fears of living? Jesus did not avoid the issue nor did he give them soothing words. . He dealt directly with the cause and cure for the worried, anxious heart.
He is telling us that God gave us life so if we truly belong to God surely we can trust Him to care for all our needs, and goes on to prove that worry in any event is useless because we cannot alter anything. All it will do give us ulcers, heart problems and even death.
Have you ever seen a gravestone with the epitaph yet it could be written on many gravestones. Doctors never cease to tell us today that many of the illnesses that we have with us are directly, not just the symptom, but are directly related to the problem of anxiety, the problem of fear and the problem of worry. Now we're all guilty of this Indeed, most of us worry sometimes, some of us worry a lot of the time,
A woman worried for many years that she was going to die of cancer, and many years after she died of something totally different so wasting years of worry about the wrong thing.. What we're doing is trying to take responsibility for our own lives rather than leaving them in God’s hands.
Jesus words may sound too easy. He says, do not be anxious. How can He expect us not to be anxious considering the many things with which we have to deal?
He tells why we should not worry and how anxiety really only makes things harder. He is trying to point out that there is more to life than possessions. He goes on to say even if we do worry none of us can add a single cubit to his life's span. In other words, anxiety is futile because life is more than things. It is more than the material. It is more than the physical. It has an eternal dimension to it that is beyond us.
Jesus then points to the birds and lilies to tell us that God cares for them with the observation that they don’t worry and yet get by so why should we. God cares for us to is the message.
Many Christians wonder about these words as to how literally we are to take them. Some would say if you really believe that God is in charge, and that He loves you and will meet your needs, then you can relax in faith. If you for some reason do not believe that God will take care of you, then you will be unable to relax. You will feel that it is up to you to take care of all your needs, physical, emotional, and even spiritual.
I realise there are many people these days who are well prepared to sit back and let everyone else provide for them but they are not necessarily Christians and do not mind who provides for them. The message Jesus is giving is that we should not let the provision of our necessities dominate our thoughts, God will indeed care for us, but we must also make effort to help ourselves. Elsewhere in the Bible we are told a man has responsibility for his family, and Paul stated clearly that if a man shall not work he should not be given food. There would be a lot of starving people today if this was adhered to however.
Many of us here grew up when our first priority in life was to have a house to live in, care for our children, sufficient food and clothing and if we could then afford some luxury we would either get it or save up for it. That philosophy is considered to be really old-fashioned now and a source of amusement to many young people. That it may be, but there were less people on valium and other anti-depressants, and families were happier and stayed together.
Many now measure their life and happiness in terms of those things that surround them. But those things are deceptive in nature. While they may appear to have lasting value and worth, they are by nature temporary. Consider how many are worried over savings and investments, house prices etc. In a moment they could be gone. Furthermore, they are not nearly as important as so many other things. Husband, wife, children, family and friends all have a higher priority (or should have) than things.
Today people are so influenced by television advertisements. They want to copy celebrities and live like them without the means to do so, which why so many are in financial trouble,
Virtues like honesty, integrity, kindness, mercy, patience, faithfulness and love are all far more important than material goods. Life is far more than things. The reason so many people are on drugs and alcohol is because of their hedonistic lifestyle.
There is a piece of music called ‘one day at a time Lord Jesus’ and Jesus here tells us not to worry about tomorrow for we can only live one day at a time. Each day has troubles of its own and worry can be defeated when we live one day at a time.
It was Jesus contention that worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of one’s life.
In verse 33 Jesus tells us to first seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all things will be given you. If we do, our minds will have something to think of rather than ourselves, for it means our attention is given to see more people turn to Christ, and doing what we can to see the Church grow. This means we have to live our lives in a way that brings credit on Him, and reveals a superior lifestyle to that of so many of our friends. If we profess to be Christians and then act in a way which is contrary to Christian teaching, then we are not advancing the Kingdom of God.
Jesus told us to make this a priority, the first intention, and we do this by depending on Christ daily. If God is looking after our interests we can get on and make it our priority to seek His Kingdom. He is in fact challenging us to put Him first and when we do He will respond and meet our needs
The choice is ours. We can choose to borrow trouble from tomorrow and live life as if God is not there, or we can trust Him and seek Him with all our hearts.
This is the challenge for all believers - to practically trust Christ. It is to live out what you say you believe. It is to make Him Lord over your life in practical ways. (1824)