This is part 2 in a series on our post-election response as Christians. Here is part 1, if you missed it.
Have you ever played “Would You Rather?” It’s one of those ice-breaker games that every youth group has played at least 73 times. One person says, “Would you rather …” and then gives two similarly difficult choices. Either two things that everyone would love to do, like roll around in a pile of puppies or swim in a silo full of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck. Or the choices are two things that no one would ever choose: stick your hand in a crocodile’s mouth to retrieve your brand-new iPhone or call your Ex’s parents and explain why you aren’t together anymore. Two awesome choices!
With the 2020 presidential election (and all of the lower elections) behind us, we face a choice as well. Actually, two choices that are connected. Many of us are choosing to be anxious about the future. It may be that the person you voted for lost and you’re worried about what the country may look like in a few months or years. It could be that your candidate won and you’re anxious about whether he will keep all of his promises.
The trouble with all of this worry is: if that’s where you are, then you’ve already made another choice and you probably aren’t even aware of it. Jesus explains in the Sermon on the Mount. You’ve probably heard these two sections of Matthew 6 before, but did you know they are connected? I’ll explain.
First, here’s Matthew 6:19-24.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Just about every preacher has taught this passage at one point in his life, so chances are you’ve heard it at least once. It’s all about greed and how you can’t love God and money, right? Sure, sort of. More broadly, it’s about what you place the most value on. If you value earthly things, then you may be satisfied for a time, but it doesn’t last. But if you value heavenly things, then you will never be disappointed. Verse 21 boils it down to a pretty simple sentence. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In other words, the things that you value are an outward expression of your heart attitude.
Think about what you think about. What you post about. What you’re passionate about. Is it the breaking news about that politician? Or the latest conspiracy theory about this candidate? What are you putting your hope in? Do you worry that if your guy doesn’t win, then the whole country could crumble?
If you’re feeling anxiety right now, I’m going to guess that you said “yes” to at least one of those questions. That’s the point of Jesus’ message in this passage. You can’t serve two masters, God and politics. Just like you can’t serve God and money. Really you can’t serve God and anything.
That brings us to the next section of Jesus’ sermon.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, 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 of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
- Matthew 6:25–34
I love transition words in the Bible–and, but, however, for, therefore. When you’ve read this before, did you notice it starts with ‘therefore’? Jesus is connecting this thought to the one above it. Here’s the one sentence summary: If you serve a master that is not God, then you will be anxious about your life.
If we put God in the place of utmost importance, then we don’t have to worry about the future. We don’t have to worry about what we eat or drink, or the clothes we wear, because we know that life in Christ is so much more than that!
If God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field, how much more will he take care of you? Let’s do a little thought exercise. Hopefully this is helpful. Let’s imagine that somehow the first amendment was magically repealed. That’s an incredibly far-fetched idea, but one that quite a few people I know are legitimately concerned about. Let’s say it happens. Will you have to stop worshiping God? Even if you aren’t allowed to attend church on Sundays, do you have to stop believing that Christ died for your sins?
There are countries like that in the world right now and Christianity is growing at a faster rate in those places than it is in the US. Do you know why? Because believers in those hostile countries realize that their faith is not and does not have to be tied to their earthly citizenship. They are kingdom people first, and God is sovereign. They could die tomorrow, and God will still be good. They could never openly step into a house of worship and still worship God in their hearts.
What good does it do to wrap up your hopes in men, even leaders with the best of intentions? When you choose that master, you are also choosing fear and anxiety over faith. I’m going to let Jesus have the last word.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble”
- Matthew 6:34
by Rob Trahan