Sermon on Luke 12:22–34 for the 9th Sunday after Pentecost, Pr. 14, August 8 & 11, 2019
First of all, I’m going to say something about biblical interpretation. God inspired and gave his Scriptures to be clear and sufficient. Just as you and I have one single meaning when we write or speak, so does God. Just as we try not to leave out anything important, God certainly isn’t going to leave out anything important. A new translation of the Bible should have the goal of making clear what is already clear by taking something in an ancient language and presenting it accurately.
I. Do Not Worry! (God Provides.)
- That being said, there are some cultural differences between biblical times and our time that may give us some more insight to what the plain words of Scripture mean. In the gospel, Jesus says, “For that reason I tell you, stop worrying about your life, about what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. Certainly life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.” In a similar passage in Matthew (6:31), Jesus says, “Do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’” You and I ask those questions all the time. “What will we eat?” “Will it be McDonald’s? (No.) Ming’s? Ponderosa? Jimmy John’s?” For Jesus’ first hearers, they would have been thinking, “What will we eat?” “Will we be able to find food?” “Are we going to eat?” Jesus first spoke those words to people who had very little. And he told them not to worry.
- And he gave them reasons not to worry. He looked at nature. “Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no warehouse or barn; and yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than birds! … Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these. If this is how God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will he clothe you, you of little faith?” God provides. In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus taught us to pray “Give us our daily bread,” which we learned means everything we need for body and life. God provides. If he didn’t, we wouldn’t survive. He provides for the birds. He even provides for those who don’t know him and don’t love him (Matthew 5:45). He does this to give people time to know and experience his grace. “How much more will he do for you—you of little faith?” How much does he already give us 21st century people who ask, “What shall we eat? Pork, chicken, or beef? Burger King or Domino’s or Marco’s?” He provides for our needs and so much more.
II. Do Not Strive for ‘Stuff.’ (God Knows Our Needs.)
- Then Jesus said, “Do not constantly chase after what you will eat or what you will drink. Do not be worried about it. To be sure, the nations of the world chase after all of these things, but your Father knows that you need them. Instead, continue to seek the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.” Here Jesus is speaking about people like us who have many choices for food and clothing. What does he say? “Don’t strive for these things.” Or “Do not constantly chase after these things.” “Your Father knows that you need them.” One of our problems is that we pay all our attention to the gifts and forget the giver. This is a First Commandment issue. Whatever we love the most or trust the most is really what we have made into our god. And we love the ‘stuff’ so much that we end up worrying about it. God gave us all we have to serve our needs. It was never his plan that we should become servants of the ‘stuff,’ or that the ‘stuff’ should have first place in all our thoughts.
- Jesus says, “Your Father knows that you need these things.” A favorite children’s hymn says, “For my shepherd gently guides me, / Knows my needs and well provides me.” That was King David’s thought when he said that the Shepherd “leads me to green pastures and quiet waters.” He knows our needs better than we do. He never confuses desire or want with need. He knows—omniscience is one of his chief attributes. In Jeremiah he says, “Am I a God who is only nearby,” declares the Lord, “and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the Lord. “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:23-24). For us, God’s omniscience is a gracious attribute. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Pslam 23). “God is our refuge and strength, … the Lord of armies is with us. The God of Jacob is a fortress for us” (Psalm 46). If he knows all, he knows you. He knows me. If he knows us, he knows what we need. He knows what we worry about. He knows what makes us anxious. He knows what we are afraid of… …and he says, “I am here. Fear no evil.”
III. Do Not Be Afraid! (You Are Heirs of God’s Kingdom.)
- Now we come to the main reason not to worry and not to be afraid. “Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” What is the kingdom of God? What is Jesus talking about here? Because he fills all things, the universe is God’s kingdom. There’s nothing beyond his control. But the kingdom Jesus talks about here, and the kingdom we pray will come in the Lord’s Prayer is God’s kingdom of grace. Jesus is talking about his own work here. He is the one who brings us into God’s kingdom. He takes angry and rebellious people, proclaims his gospel to them, and gives them the right to be children of God through the forgiveness of sins in Jesus. The disciples were going to go out as apostles and agents of the kingdom. God’s word of gospel has come to our hearts, and there he works a change. Sometimes we’re slow to learn and slow to believe, like Jesus called his disciples, “You of little faith.” He’s working on us. “Your father is pleased to give you the kingdom.” What did it take to give us this kingdom? It took the Son of God, putting on human flesh, making his bed in a cow’s feeding trough, fleeing for his life from a crazy king, living in holy obedience every day, refuting questions from Pharisees and Scribes, standing before a governor and a king, and laying down his life—only to take it up again. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also graciously give us all things along with him? (Romans 8:32). Because he made us his own at his own great expense, he will not forget us. Do not be afraid.
Conclusion: Fear can destroy faith. That’s why we need the Word and promise of God in front of us constantly. Worry is a lot like fortune telling. We look into the crystal ball and see a dark future full of all kinds of terrible things, most of which will never happen. Worry does nothing for us—nothing good. It’s really a product of our self-worship. We want to be omniscient and be in control. But the truth is, we don’t know the future. God does. We’re not in control of much. God is in control of all. And he tells us not to worry. He promises to provide. He calls us his own and gives us his kingdom, along with his one and only Son. These are the reasons why God tells us not to worry.
Luke 12:22–34 (EHV)
Jesus said to his disciples, “For that reason I tell you, stop worrying about your life, about what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. 23 Certainly life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap; they have no warehouse or barn; and yet God feeds them. How much more valuable are you than birds! 25 And who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifespan? 26 Since you are not able to do this little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. But I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these. 28 If this is how God clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will he clothe you, you of little faith? 29 Do not constantly chase after what you will eat or what you will drink. Do not be worried about it. 30 To be sure, the nations of the world chase after all of these things, but your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, continue to seek the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you. 32 Do not be afraid, little flock, because your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the needy. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not become old, a treasure in the heavens that will not fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.