Free Slaves Matthew 6:24-34
Speaking as an avid and lifelong procrastinator, the Gospel lesson for today is one of my favorite passages. It gives me great comfort to say with certainty, “don’t worry about it, we can worry about it tomorrow.” Any contention is immediately put down because after all, I am quoting Jesus. Unfortunately, using this passage in Matthew as a license to do nothing misses Jesus’ deeper and meaningful point.
Jesus is going to be touching on a topic that has plagued mankind for millennia: What is the meaning of life? Several answers have been put forward over time. Sadly, our society’s answer to this question can be summed up in the title of a popular rap album: get rich or die tryin’. Or as I like to call it: the one with the most toys wins. Now don’t get me wrong society has put forward better answers than this before, political freedom and equality are a few examples, but they really only try to make sure that everyone shares their toys nicely.
Once again, the Kingdom of God works entirely backwards to the ways of this world. Our lesson begins with Jesus using a slave metaphor. You cannot be a slave of both money and God. To be perfectly honest, everyone in the world is a slave to something, as Jesus pointed out: money, or an addiction, or a worldview, or a person. A slave only has one master, who is yours? Jesus is encouraging his listeners and us to evaluate our lives, what rules us? If it is not God, there is a problem. Naturally, this runs contrary to the ways of the world, which chases after wealth. Again, really it should be no surprise to us when we hear Christ’s words: “Do not be anxious about your life.” Don’t even worry about your life.
But still we think, “Wait, what?” In the world we live in, life is maybe the one thing that is more important than money; it’s the most important thing we have. We spend trillions trying to preserve it, to sustain it. We are saddened by the perversions of society that take life away, who try to end it prematurely.
Yet still Christ continues, don’t worry about what you will eat or drink; don’t worry about money and finances. “Well what else is there to worry about?” You see, if these are the ultimate goal of life, there is nothing more important than them. But Christ says, “There is more to life than these.” The goal of life is not to get rich or die tryin’.
Jesus instead proclaims, “Seek first the kingdom of God and HIS righteousness.” Apparently Jesus wants us to worry about this more than anything else, even our lives.
Now before we start jumping to conclusions and thinking that God doesn’t value life or food or nourishment, remember the Father knows that we need these things. The problem arises when we begin seeking and trusting in the gifts of God rather than God himself. So he encourages us, don’t worry about them…
But still we say, “Hold on a minute Jesus. How are we supposed to just NOT worry about these things?” Again, he claims that the Father in heaven knows that we need these things and will provide for us. But do we believe it? Or is it just a nice thought we have and now we have to go stress out about putting food on the table. We say, “Yes, the sparrows seem pretty care free, but I don’t. They don’t have the bills or the pressure.”
Indeed, The kingdom of God is so backwards to the ways of the world that even we Christians struggle with the concepts. “How do we not worry? How has God helped relieve my stress?” Even we, who have been brought to the knowledge of the truth, that our heavenly father cares for us and supplies our every need, even we become distressed and discouraged by the events in our lives. Worrying about what’s to come. We can become bitter when tragedies happen, angry at a God who is supposed to be looking out for us. “If our God cares so much for sparrows and grass, why doesn’t he help me out?” We load ourselves up with weights and put on chains, because we think the events in this world impact how God thinks of us.
When this happens we have become no different than the pagans. As Jesus says, “the gentiles seek after all these things.” Their “religion” and all the other religions in the world really are about pleasing an angry god so that they can have some peace down here. This is not Christianity. But we find ourselves trapped in this thinking.
The temptation then is to look elsewhere for peace, for stress relief. To money, denial, or popularity. We tell ourselves a big paycheck will make all our worries go away, or the next self help book. To those who seek riches and wealth: they become slaves, bound in chains. Some of them actually manage to attain their goals, they get their wealth but chains of gold are still nonetheless chains. The cliché expression, “money can’t buy happiness,” is proven to be true as we see celebrity after celebrity go into and out of and back into rehab. Money is not all there is to life.
To those who think they can help themselves to find happiness, peace, salvation: they are grasping at straws. They become slaves to themselves, not God. When your only master is yourself, who do you turn to when you fail? When you die? Our righteousness is altogether lacking and we are unable to help or save ourselves.
The ultimate conclusion of all of these ways to obtain peace is an imperfect and incomplete life, which leads to despair. If the meaning of life is money, riches, and popularity, what happens when it’s gone, which of these will save you on your deathbed?
What can save us?
Once again: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Therein lies our freedom and our hope. HIS righteousness. Not ours. Our righteousness is lacking to say the least, it falters. But his does not. His righteousness is perfect and can save us. It is our steady rock and foundation amid all the turmoil and worry of this life. The Righteousness of God, in his kingdom brings a life that is so much more abundant, free, and lasting than in any kingdom of this world. It is eternal. So he beckons us to seek after this, seek after the eternal life offered to you in Christ, and look to God to graciously offer you everything else. Serve God, not money.
This righteousness for us, which we are supposed to be seeking, is found in no other place than the cross of Christ; where the innocent God-man came to us and died that we might come into his kingdom with him. All the chains of sin we have carried for so long, cast them upon Christ, who took them upon himself. See today as a new day to live free. The past sins that have haunted you are gone, forgiven, we can move on. The future, though uncertain for many of us, and even filled with trials and temptations, is hopeful and bright because we know we don’t go into it alone. But with Christ at our side.
Let loose the chains upon yourself. Know that no matter what happens we have life, hope, and salvation ahead of us. From the babe to the elderly, you have life and hope and peace in your future.
We his people are partakers in the hope of Christ. A hope so real and sure that it transforms the way we think and live this life. The most “important” things of this world, money, riches take a back seat. I do not need to be a millionaire to feel important, Christ died for me. You don’t have to be popular or famous to feel loved. Christ died for you. Even the necessities of this life, food and clothing, become trivial because even if these and heaven and earth should pass away, if the mountains fall into the sea, we still have Christ, and the hope of the resurrection.
Now to be certain, we are still slaves, as Paul reminds us in the epistle lesson. But we are slaves not to money or any other hopeless thing. We are slaves, as Paul says, to Christ, our master. Our kind, and loving master, who has offered us everything, his very kingdom. As his servants we are to share this love and peace with those around us. Inviting them to cast their burdens on Christ.
This passage offers us all a healthy dose of perspective. For those who are rich: good, give thanks to God for your blessings. For those who are poor: good, give thanks to God for your blessings. Rich and poor alike, give thanks to God because he cares for us, loves us and offers us eternal life empowering us to be slaves to God in this world. To share our blessings with others, to show how loving our master is, to express the freedom we have in his name.