Today’s readings talk about faith. Once again, they remind us that faith is a gift from God that the Holy Spirit creates in us. It is this gift of faith that holds on to the promises that God gives to us through our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Faith tells us that this world is not all that there is. Our senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell tell us about this material world. God’s Word tells us that there is a spiritual world that is beyond our senses. We can only learn the truth about that world from God’s Word. We can only believe the truth about that world through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith.
Because we enter this world as sinners in a sinful world, it is very natural to believe that this world is all that there is. Even if we begin to wonder how all this world came to be and begin to believe in some sort of spiritual world, our knowledge of that world will be pure guesswork. And, because we are sinners, that guesswork will be wrong.
Even Christians, people who have the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith, struggle with the truth of the spiritual world. That is where Jesus encourages us in today’s Gospel. Jesus understands that it is easy to be anxious about food when you are hungry. It is easy to be anxious about clothes when you are wearing rags.
It may seem strange, but humanity manages to worry even when things are perfect. Clear back in Genesis – back in Eden – Eve was worried. The seeds of worry were planted when Eve began to wonder about the forbidden fruit – that maybe God was holding something back about the fruit’s benefits. In spite of the fact that she was queen of the entire universe and could look forward to an immortal life of perfect health and happiness, she was worried. Perhaps God was not allowing her to develop to her full potential. She trusted the Word of a Serpent more than the Word of God.
When we worry, we are saying one of two things about God. We are either saying that God is not powerful enough to help us, or that God is powerful, but doesn’t care – or maybe He even wants to hold us back. In any case, we are saying that we cannot rely on God and must therefore rely on ourselves and on our stuff. When we trust in ourselves above all things, we are saying that we are god. When we trust in our stuff above all things, we are saying that our stuff is god. Either way, we are committing idolatry. We are not trusting in God above all things. In fact, we are not trusting in God at all.
Worry is not only spiritually damaging, but it isn’t even helpful in this earthly world. Worry accomplishes nothing and can be physically harmful. Jesus said, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” Modern medicine tells us that the stress of anxiety may cause a variety of disorders that will shorten our life. Why then, in spite of all the harm that worry does, do we still worry?
While worry is not part of our human nature, it – like all our sins – is part of the sinful nature that we have. The corruption of sin that brought frustration, injury, illness, and death into this world also makes us worriers from birth. Worry is part of the package that comes with our original sin.
What then can be done about this worry? Jesus said, “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.” At first, it may seem that Jesus is telling us to simply change our attitude. If we are not careful, we might take these words to mean that we should just buck up and get with the program. We should just adopt a happy attitude and all our worries will go away. If that were all that Jesus meant when He said these words, we would have every right to despair because in spite of our best efforts, we still worry. Thankfully, there is much more for us in these words.
Jesus doesn’t just tell us that life is more than food. He gives us life. Life with Jesus is more than just the years that we spend here on this earth. By calling attention to the short life of the grass of the field, He reminds us that we inherited an immortal soul from our first father, Adam – a soul that was breathed into Him by the very breath of God. The end of our lives here on this earth is not our final destination. Our final destination is in eternity.
Jesus gently chides us for worrying about clothing by reminding us that the clothing He provides for even the simplest flower is superior to the finest clothing that Solomon’s tailors could design. Jesus is not just talking about flowers here. He is telling us that in eternity we too shall rise with newly transformed and immortal bodies – bodies that are more than clothing. God has provided a new set of clothes for us that far exceeds all other clothes. He has clothed us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
This is the righteousness of Christ’s perfect, sinless life. As the prophet Isaiah wrote, [Isaiah 61:10] “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
We did not have the right to wear that righteous dress, but Jesus, the Christ, took the filthy rags of our worry and other sins to the cross. With His sacrificial suffering and death, He earned the right for us to wear His eternal righteousness. Now He gives us the right to be adopted as His brothers so that we can wear the glorious robes of His righteousness and call His Father our Father. God has clothing for us that is infinitely better than the clothing of the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven.
We have the assurance that Jesus has earned all these gifts for us because He did not remain in the grave after He died for us, but He rose from the dead and ascended to rule at the right hand of the Father. This resurrection assures us that the glorious robes of Christ’s righteousness now belong to us.
Where can we find such wonderful garments? You find them in the Word of God. The Bible says, [Romans 10:17] Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. The Holy Spirit has chosen to bestow these garments of righteousness through Christ’s Word – – as it is combined with the water of Holy Baptism – and as it is combined with the bread and wine so that Jesus Himself gives us His true body and His true blood at His table. It is through these means that the Holy Spirit has chosen to create and nurture the miracle of faith. And it is the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith that covers us with the robe of Christ’s righteousness.
When you worry and the Holy Spirit reminds you that it is a sin, He will also remind you that you are a baptized child of God. He will remind you that Jesus has redeemed you from sin, death, and the power of the devil with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. He will remind you that you wear the righteousness of Christ and not even the grass of the fields is arrayed as gloriously. He will remind you that after that grass has long since been converted to smoke, you will wear those robes of Christ’s righteousness in the eternity of His presence. Amen
A Message from Rev.James Batchelor brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project