“Do Not Be Anxious about Your Life” (Luke 12:22-34)

Ninth Sunday after Pentecost
August 7, 2022

“Do Not Be Anxious about Your Life” (Luke 12:22-34)

In the Holy Gospel for today, Jesus says, “Do not be anxious about your life.” Really, Jesus? Are you kidding me? “Do not be anxious”?? How can you say that? I mean, look at my life. There’s so much to be anxious about! Take my personal finances, for instance. Since January 1, year-to-date, in just seven months my individual retirement accounts are down almost $9,000. And this, for an individual approaching retirement! In these past seven months, I’ve had to buy a new phone and a new used car. During this same time, I’ve had to have a health checkup, dental work, and two eye surgeries, which were not all covered by insurance. Gas, groceries, rent–all up, substantially. Inflation this year has been the highest it’s been in decades. Well, you get the picture. And for many of you, the picture has been equally as bleak.

And what about all the people in our area who have suffered major losses from the torrential downpours and the flash flooding of the last couple of weeks? Are you going to tell them to cheer up and put on a happy face? How in the world could Jesus say, “Do not be anxious about your life”? Was he just being the Pollyanna of Palestine? Out of touch with reality?

No, far from it. In fact, Jesus was and is very much in touch with reality. It’s just that he sees a far greater reality than we often take into account. He sees the bigger picture, both for our present life and for our eternal future. And so now let’s see what Jesus sees and takes into account when he tells us, “Do Not Be Anxious about Your Life.”

Jesus says to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” Well, that’s true, I guess. Think of the rich fool, from last week’s lesson. He had all the wealth anyone could want. His only problem was, “Where am I going to put all my stuff?” So he said to his soul: “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him: “Thou fool! This night thy soul shall be required of thee! Whatcha gonna do with all your stuff then?” Or think of the rich man and poor Lazarus. The rich man wore fine clothing and feasted sumptuously every day. But when he died, he went to hell, while poor Lazarus was escorted into heaven by angels. I guess life really is more than food, and the body more than clothing.

But still, there is this matter of having enough to live on in this life. And even though we complain about losses on our investments and the rising cost of living–even so, we Americans are still better off than 99% of folks throughout human history and even in our world today. That’s part of the bigger picture, too.

And Jesus broadens our view beyond that. He says, “Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!” Last week Susan and I got to consider the pelicans. We would see them flying overhead, looking down at the ocean, and then they would circle back and suddenly dive-bomb down into the water to grab their supper. That’s how God provided for them. And God provides for us too. Maybe we can’t dive-bomb into the ocean like the pelicans, but we still eat pretty well. Maybe too well! We get anxious about our waistline!

So then we get anxious about our clothing! Should I buy new clothes now or wait until I can lose some weight? Of course, I’ve been asking that question for three years now! Or the wife asks, “Do these pants make my butt look big?” Husbands, do not answer that question! It’s a trap!

Man, we do get worried about the picayunest of things, don’t we? We’ve got it so well, and still we’ve got things to kvetch about. But even if our situation was more serious–and for many people it is–Jesus would direct us away from anxiety and toward faith in our Father to take care of us: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”

“Little-faith ones”: That’s who we are, and that’s our big problem. We don’t trust God to take care of us. That’s been man’s problem from the beginning. God gives us a whole garden to live in, with plenty to eat, and yet we think that God is holding out on us. The Lord provides food and drink in the wilderness, and yet we grumble. This lack of trust in God and his goodness is our basic problem.

But Jesus would instill faith in us. He directs our attention to God and his care for us. If God provides for the birds and the lilies, how much more will he care for you! God created man in his own image, in own likeness–not the ravens. God made man as the apex of his creation–not the lilies of the field! Your heavenly Father cares for you! That’s the bigger picture. That’s the reality that Jesus sees–and he shows us!

“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” The people of this world are obsessed with material possessions and having enough stuff. That’s all they can see. But we who are followers of Christ–we have had our eyes opened to see a bigger reality. We know a heavenly Father who loves us and takes care of us. We don’t have to guess at that or grope around in the dark. We have had our eyes opened. We have seen the light, the light of Christ our Savior. In him we know a gracious God.

And so we have a higher priority than just food in our bellies and clothes on our back. Those are important, and our Father knows that we need them. And he will provide, sometimes in ways we don’t know at the moment. We have our daily bread, and even if we don’t know where next week’s bread will come from, it will be there when we need it. Trust in God to provide. He will.

But the higher priority is to seek God’s kingdom. How does God bring us into his kingdom? Through Christ. In him. As sinners, we were outside of God’s kingdom. We were lost and didn’t know the way in. We were under the sway of Satan, stuck in his domain of darkness. But God loved us so much that he sent his own Son to rescue us, to redeem us, to liberate us from death and hell and the devil. Jesus came in the flesh to do the job. Which he did, by living the holy life that God requires. By dying the sinner’s death that we deserve. His blood, shed on the cross, cleanses us from all sin and wins our forgiveness. Heaven is now open. Baptized into Christ, we have changed kingdoms. We have entered a new and much greater reality.

“Seek his kingdom”: This is our new priority in life. And we seek God’s kingdom by seeking out where he is giving out his gifts on a regular basis. We find these kingdom gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation–we seek them and we find them here at church, in and through the means of grace, Word and Sacrament. Seek, and ye shall find.

What’s more, the big picture gets even bigger: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” It’s a gift! We didn’t do anything to merit this new kingdom. It’s all by grace. The kingdom is ours, and it’s purely out of God’s good pleasure in Christ. When Jesus was born, the angels sang, “Peace to men out of God’s good pleasure.” When Jesus was baptized, the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The source of our salvation is God’s good pleasure, not our good works. And this makes it something we can rely on, because the promise depends on God, not us. Jesus moves us from fear to faith.

From fear to faith, and thus to freedom. Knowing that God will take care of our needs in this present life, and knowing that our Father has gifted us with his eternal kingdom, now we are free to live life in faith and hope and love. As Jesus says: “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a treasure the world does not know. We have a life that consists in far more than food and clothing and the things the world worries about. We have been given life in God’s kingdom. We have been given the life of Christ: forgiveness life, resurrection life, new and eternal life. That changes things. That changes us. We have a new outlook. God has opened our eyes to see what Jesus sees. And so it is not crazy talk when Jesus tells us, “Do not be anxious about your life.” No, because Jesus moves us from anxiety and fear to faith and hope and love.

Published in: on August 6, 2022 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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