Epiphany 8A – Not To Worry
February 26/27, 2011
During the past week, bloody battles have claimed the lives of
anywhere between 300 and 1000 Libyans.
Reports indicate that people hide in their homes fearful for their lives;
Mercenary soldiers hunt from house-to-house;
There are mass killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture of prisoners.
And so on Friday, self-proclaimed, “King of Kings,” Moammar Gadhafi
addressed his people saying,
“Dance! Sing! Be Happy! I am here.”
and then he blew them kisses.[i]
Could there be anything more out-of-touch with reality?
People are fearing for their lives,
and he tells them, “Don’t worry. Be happy.”?
Most of us aren’t fearful for our lives,
but most of us are fearful about something – the economy, our health, our kids…
There probably isn’t anything more annoying to hear
when you share your worries with someone, than the words, “Don’t worry. Just relax!”
(Which is why I’m glad that’s not what Jesus said!)
We’re on our 5th week of readings from the Sermon on the Mount,
and here Jesus turns to what the old King James translation calls ‘mammon.’
You cannot serve God and mammon.
(Actually the KJV says, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”)
Mammon is money… and all the things money can buy.
Food, drink, clothing.
Shelter, transportation, medication.
Entertainment, travel, sports.
Pet food, concert tickets, airplane tickets.
Snow blowers, leaf blowers, power washers.
Flat screen TV’s, ipads, smart phones.
Money… and all the things money can buy.
You can’t serve God and mammon.
And that is what this passage from Matthew is about.
You can’t divide your attention.
If God is your focus, your focus can’t be entirely on mammon.
If mammon is your focus, your focus can’t be entirely on God.
If God is your focus, your focus can’t be entirely on food, drink, or clothing.
If food, drink, or clothing is your focus, your focus can’t be entirely on God.
The word ‘worry’ is used six times in these verses.
It comes from a Greek word which means to divide our attention.
Jesus says, we can’t divide our attention between God and anything else.
Multitasking just doesn’t work.
We live in the age of multitasking and we’ve come to believe that we do it quite well –
we think we can watch TV at the same time we do homework and text a friend;
we think we can listen to our spouse while we eat dinner and read the paper;
we think we can drive a car while we talk on the phone.
We think we’re quite efficient.
But as the data shows, we’re not as good at it as we think.
Our brains aren’t wired that way.
We can’t fully attend to more than one thing at a time.
We can’t worry about food, drink, and clothing,
and at the same time, give God our full attention.
So Jesus says, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or what you will drink,
or about your body, what you will wear.
Strive first – attend first – to the kingdom of God and his righteousness
and the rest will follow.
And yet….and yet….what do we do about the fact that there are people who go to bed hungry?
There are people who do not have safe drinking water.
There are people who struggle to clothe themselves.
There are people who are living in the cross fire of a revolution.
Do we tell them not to worry?
Dare we chastise them to stop thinking of things such as food, drink, clothing, or their lives?
I don’t think God is saying to pretend our needs don’t exist
or the needs of people around us.
We wouldn’t walk by a homeless man in front of us who is asking for food,
and tell him that if he prayed harder, God would provide.
We wouldn’t tell a young mother in Libya that she should just carry on as usual,
that worrying about her children is sinful.
Rather, I think Jesus is saying, that when we strive for the kingdom of God,
when we strive for God’s way of working in the world
then the hungry are fed; the thirsty are given drink; the naked are clothed; and there is life and safety for all.
It is no accident that later on in his gospel, Matthew
talks once again about the hungry, the thirsty, and the naked.
Let’s turn in our pew Bibles to Matthew chapter 25, verses 34-36 (page 35)
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
The kingdom of God is a kingdom in which those who are hungry have no need to worry, because God’s people provide food;
It is a kingdom in which those who are thirsty have no need to worry, because God’s people provide drink;
It is a kingdom in which those who are naked have no need to worry, because God’s people provide clothing.
It is a kingdom of a single focus – a single vision –
God, the true King of Kings, has blessed us so that we may be a blessing to others.
Don’t worry. Be happy. Strive for such a kingdom. Amen.