Summary: 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? Look to God’s future for security and hope.
Stop being so anxious! Don’t worry, just relax! Why are you so stressed? You’ve probably heard words like that fairly recently. It’s the nature of our age to be stressed isn’t it? In fact this passage from Matt 6 could have been written specifically for us, couldn’t it? We live in an age where anxiety and worry are at epidemic levels. Every year we discover that life is less certain. Our oil reserves are running out; the greenhouse effect is bringing about climate change; terrorism threatens us in a way that we’ve never experienced before; the population bubble known as "baby boomers" is about to hit retirement age and there may not be enough funds to keep us in the luxury to which we’ve become accustomed. And that’s just on top of the everyday anxieties and worries that come just from living: parents worrying about their children, children worrying about their aging parents; business people worrying about the bottom line, young people worrying about the cost of education and the large HECS debt they’re accumulating; students worrying about exams, elderly people worrying about illness and frailty.
So 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?" Does this mean we should just forget about our worries, whistle a happy tune, pack up all our cares and woes, don’t worry, be happy? For example, does it mean we shouldn’t worry when our 18 year old son takes the car out for his first solo drive with his mates or our 17 year old daughter goes to the school formal after-party with her 19 year-old boy-friend?
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?
It’d be easy to read Jesus’ words about God’s care for us and to romanticise it wouldn’t it? To look at this idyllic picture of birds and wildflowers and be carried away by the idea that God will look after us no matter what; that everything will be rosy, if only we’ll trust him. But that isn’t what he’s saying here. Well, he’ll certainly look after us, but it may not be rosy.
There are a number of ways we could respond when reading a passage like this. First of all, we could read it, then think about our own lives and decide that this is 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, as I said, 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. I remember a man whose wife had died, who refused to admit that he missed her or that he’d experienced any sense of loss from her death. Why? Because that would have been to show a lack of faith in God. But 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 first, let’s think about how this relates to our lives in the 21st century.
Let’s begin by remembering that this passage comes straight after the section we read last week. If you were here, you’ll remember that Camille talked about having the right motives for the religious acts we do as Christians. There we saw that it’s no use doing the right thing, even the religious thing, if the reason we do it is to build up our own esteem or reputation before other people. It’s only helpful if it’s done in order to glorify God.
Well, here Jesus goes on to talk about the way we order our secular life, e.g. how we make plans. And the same questions arise. Are we planning for our own pleasure and comfort, or our own self esteem, or are we planning with God’s glory in mind? And when we get there will we thank God for his goodness towards us or will we glory in our own wisdom and foresight?