The Silliness of Worry (Matthew 6:25-34)

On my recent trip to the West Coast to visit relatives, including attending at their church, the pastor preached on this sixth chapter of Matthew. And he told the story that he had earlier preached in a previous ministry on this topic of not over-valuing material possessions, and after church he went out to the parking lot to discover that his car had been stolen!

If you enjoy worrying, you are living at the right time. There is plenty to worry about right now in a world that is terribly damaged. If corporate worry could be measured, the nation right now would weigh in at a rather high number. New president, global terror, fragile world economics, ecological debates about natural resources … just to name a few.

But as a nation we have gone through even more difficult times. I think of my parents’ generation that lived through The Great Depression and the Second World War.  My father told me about the scant income that he had during those years, having a new and young family along with his in-laws to provide for. But he told me that even with nothing to spare, he determined he was going to be faithful to give to God and therefore chose to tithe faithfully. His summary statement about his life was that, “From the day I chose to be faithful to give to God, I have never failed to thrive and have always had even more than enough.”  He put the Kingdom of God as his top priority with his material assets and life skills, and he was totally taken care of as a result.

This should not be a surprise, for this is what Christ said would happen and would be the experience of those who rest in the Lord by prioritizing the eternal reality of God’s kingdom …

6:25 – “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?bird-and-flowers

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Worrying is easy to do. Remember the insurance company commercial a few years ago that featured the Ray LaMontagne song “Trouble” … that had a dog who had nightmare worries about his bone and all that could happen for him to lose it?  It was a great commercial. The original LaMontagne words say…

Trouble...

Trouble, trouble, trouble, trouble

Trouble been doggin' my soul since the day I was born

Worry...

Worry, worry, worry, worry

Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone

The song would have had a better theological ring if it did not go on to say, “We’ll I’ve been… saved by a woman …”  I think being saved by God would be better, but you get the idea.

Worry accomplishes little, and it is an action that is merely what people of the world do. Those who have no connection with God and eternal perspectives actually have nothing beyond this world. So worrying makes sense in many ways when there is no overarching authority of a God of provision. But to claim an alleged faith in God without actually trusting in it and in Him is to act as if there really is no faith at all.

So we can be generous and trust God, even if we don’t have guaranteed resources for more than the immediate future. We can do more than worry about self, we can think about how to be God’s agents to serve others #ForOurCity.

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Counterintuitive Investing (Matthew 6:1-4, 19-24)

Does anyone really know what to do these days with investments? There is trouble in any direction you look. Just a decade or two ago it was rather easy to manage resources. Interest rates on certificates of deposit were decent and you could even make some money on mere savings interest, now paying only a fraction of a percent. The stock market had not yet crashed and real estate was a guaranteed winner. What can you do now that rather surely promises a yield and reward?

Well, we can help you out. Here today is a plan with payouts that are, literally, out of this world! The challenge is that doing this is very counterintuitive.

When we make investments in an account, we expect to get a monthly statement to follow its progress. When investing in stocks and bonds, the brokerage agency sends a quarterly report of the performance of your positions. As well now in this modern era, you can check online 24/7 to see the status of your funds.

All of this is in the world of the visible – the intuitive. Your investments are fully in sight. That seems eminently wise. We might even call it astute management. And we are not going to slam prudent investment and management of God-given and God-blessed assets that are invested toward the end of meeting our basic needs. But there is a stewardship principle of using the abundance of resources in a way that is generous toward God and his kingdom work, along with blessing others who have insufficient assets for sustaining life.

Jesus spoke to this in Matthew 6, saying …

6:1 – “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

So there is a way to give that represents a genuine heart and motive. Jesus often encountered the religious element in Judaism who lived their “righteousness” in a very public way. It was all about making themselves feel good by showing others that they were clearly and obviously better and more advanced. They even did this with the way they gave their money.

God is a very good accountant. Credit is not necessary on earth, and giving merely to receive it now rather invalidates the reward. God can be counted upon to honor generosity in a place and time where it really matters most.

Christ picked up a similar theme just a few verses later …

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

So much of the Christian life is counterintuitive – just the opposite of the way it seems things should be. Like prayer – trusting an unseen hand, power and authority to help us rather than merely working harder to solve problem ourselves … that seems wrong. And likewise with material assets. Conventional wisdom is to accumulate and hang onto things for security, rather than to risk security by generously giving away what we might someday need for ourselves.rusty-shed

But the real world and true life is the eternal kingdom. What is given toward and invested in this endeavor can never be lost. Unlike the material world it will never fade and rust away or be stolen by someone else. Investments of this sort can never be lost, and these commitments demonstrate the nature of our hearts and what master has authority over our lives. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t horde riches on earth to the neglect of God’s Kingdom and the needs around us, while expecting also to see those riches be eternally a reward for the life beyond.

Accumulated material assets are a burden. One has to spend a great deal of time, energy and care to ensure that they are maintained and secure from theft. The safest thing to do is use them wisely and well to meet our genuine needs and beyond that to share them in a way that also secures them for eternal reward and productive investment.

Being a pastor and biblical instructor is sort of like being a certified financial planner or having a wealth management consulting business. Maybe a good name for this would be “Counterintuitive Wealth Management Consultants.”  Just helping you out.