How do we live out these words of Jesus: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear?”
Should we just pack up our troubles in our old kit bag and smile? Don’t worry, be happy?
Does it mean we shouldn’t worry when our 18 year old daughter takes the car out for her first solo drive? I mean what’s the worse thing that can happen?
When Jesus says not to store up treasures for yourself, does he mean we shouldn’t work on a business plan? Does he mean we shouldn’t be in a superannuation fund? Or be saving up for a deposit on a house? In fact should we even be thinking of owning a house in this world?
There are a number of ways we could respond to this.
We could decide that it’s so rosy and so disconnected with the reality of life in the 21st century that it has nothing to say to us. That would be a mistake.
On the other hand we could be so carried away by the idea of putting our trust in God that we lose touch with reality, that we begin to live in a fantasy world where we deny the stresses and anxieties of ordinary life.
Jesus isn’t suggesting we live in denial. Nor is he saying we shouldn’t plan for the future. In Luke 14 Jesus tells his followers they need to count the cost, to look to the future if they’re to keep on following him.
So the other way to respond is to ensure that the focus of our plans is the kingdom of God, to make sure that the place we look to for assurance and hope in this world is the kingdom of heaven.
But we live in 2017, don’t we? It’s different now, today we can buy a watch with more computing power than they had to put man on the moon, or a 6’ TV, a self driving car etc and you don’t need to be a squillionaire to afford it.
Twentieth century blues
Are getting me down.
Escape those weary
Twentieth century blues.
If there’s a God in the sky,
Why shouldn’t He grin
Above this dreary
Twentieth century din?
Noël Coward sang of the 20th century blues and they’ve got even worse in the 21st century haven’t they?
That song continues:
In this strange illusion, Chaos and confusion,
People seem to lose their way.
What is there to strive for,
Love or keep alive for,
Say, ‘Hey, hey!’
Call it a day?
We live in an age when our material comfort, the possessions we own, our access to technology, to health services, to education, etc., are at the highest they’ve ever been, yet people are more worried, more anxious than ever. My friend Deborah Storie calls it “affluenza” — our wealth and consumerism is making us sick.
If we go back 2,000 years Jesus offers us an answer, our focus needs to change, from material things to heavenly things; from wealth and possessions to the kingdom of God.
You need to ask two questions, what makes me/us feel safe now and what are my/our plans for the future?
Where are we looking for our sense of security?
Is it in material things, or is it in the things of the Kingdom of God? Having a big house, a Mercedes, a tough border policy give you an image of security, but it’s a counterfeit security. Real security comes from Jesus’ finished work on the cross. The only real and lasting hope in this world is the hope of eternal life in the next.
And what are we working towards? What are our goals in life?
If they’re tied up with wealth and position, in money and fame and power, then our efforts are being totally wasted, you can’t take it with you. But if we’re working towards building God’s kingdom we’re building for an everlasting future. We’re building wealth that can’t be counted and will never disappear.
Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
My friends all drive porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends.
So oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
We laugh along with Janis Joplin but many people, certainly many American’s think that way.
Let’s have a look at what Jesus said about the eye, but I’m going to be a bit tricky, I’m going to swap some words. Eye is going to be goals or direction and body is going to become life:
“Your goal guides your life. So, if your goal is sound, your whole life will be full of light; but if your goal is bad, your whole life will be full of darkness. If then your life’s direction is darkness, how great is the darkness!
Matthew 6:22-23 (paraphrased)
One of the things about the church just like its members is that it’s on a pilgrimage. When you’re on a pilgrimage (and I know a little about this) you can’t stand still, you have to keep walking, you can’t look back on the 300 km you’ve walked you need to look forward to the 500 more to go.
The Church, too, can’t be defined in static terms. It needs to be defined by where we’re going, not where we’ve been.
Unless we’re defined by where we’re going, that is by the Kingdom of God, then we’ve failed as a Church; we’re just like a service club, you know like Rotary or Lions.
If, as Christians in our day to day lives we focus on the stuff we have, the people we know and our standing in the community, then we’ve lost our way. We’re wandering in darkness.
So what are you going to do? There’s nothing wrong with planning but…
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.”
This guy is planning a business venture that he thinks will make his fortune. Now it’s not the business venture that’s the problem, it’s his attitude that all that’s needed is his business acumen and everything will go well.
It’s the lack of acknowledgement that God is sovereign and that everything depends on His goodness. It’s the implied boasting about how clever he is.
The important question is, what are you planning for?
What is the goal that you’re heading towards?
Where are you putting your energy, your time and money?
Is it in your own personal future or is it in the Kingdom of Heaven?
So what are you worried about? Are you worried about what you’ll wear to work on Tuesday, or what you’ll have for dinner when those friends come over next week? Or are you worried about whether your work mates, or those friends, know Jesus Christ; whether they’re prepared for the Kingdom of heaven.
Where are you putting your energy, your money, your time? Are you putting them into your own personal future, your own worldly security, or are you investing them in a future with God?
Let’s look again at today’s psalm:
O Lord, my heart is not proud: nor are my eyes haughty.
I do not busy myself in great matters: or in things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul like a weaned child upon its mother’s breast:
like a child on its mother’s breast is my soul within me.
O Israel, trust in the Lord: from this time forward and for ever.
This is a song of mature faith. You could even call it a song for a midlife crisis. The person who wrote it has confronted the crises of the adult life.
My heart is not haughty, he confesses. I’m no longer driven by ambitious desires. I’ve survived the disillusion of my own failings and the world’s limitations.
A mature faith can see past these things, it rests in the security that worth in God’s eyes lies not in how much you can achieve, but who you are — a beloved child of God.
And the aim of a mature faith is to have a calm and quiet soul, a soul of perfect trust in the Lord, a soul that hopes in the Lord for evermore…
So don’t worry about the future — God’s own Son, came to show us a love so broad, deep, and high that nothing can separate us from it. Jesus has shown us the true face of God.
Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life, gives us the promise of eternal life beyond death, where we will see face to face and understand as we are now understood by God. Those revealed things belong to us and to our children forever. They help us rest at God’s breast.
It was this Jesus who, nailed to the cross, said the bedtime prayer that we still teach our kids and grandkids today:
“Into Thy Hands, I commend my Spirit.”
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
The lullaby’s not just for kids, is it? It’s for all of us.