Sermon on the Mount: Week 7

What is it about this world that makes us want to accumulate more and more stuff? To put our faith in the things we can buy, collect, display, or store in closets and under stairs? To find it easier to be comforted by looking at our bank account balance than by studying the Word of God? We are all vulnerable to the overwhelming desire for “things” — for whatever reason, “things” provide feelings of comfort and security.

Jesus exposes the vulnerability of earthly possessions in Matthew 6:19-20:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
where moth and rust destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal,
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
whether neither moth nor rust destroys,
and where thieves do not break in or steal;
for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

What does this tell us? Our earthly possessions are completely vulnerable and our heavenly possessions are not. Vulnerable to what? In so many words, impermanence. Nothing in heaven is impermanent — you can be sure without a doubt that any treasure you lay up in heaven is permanent…eternal. These verses also tell us that it is our human nature for our heart to go with our possessions — what we have becomes very closely linked to who we are. Are you linked to your earthly possessions or your heavenly ones?

Jesus then turns to directly address the issue of anxiety in Matthew 6:25-31:

“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life,
as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink;
nor for your body, as to what you shall put on.
Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?
Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow,
neither do they reap, nor gather into barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.
Are you not worth much more than they?
And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to life’s span?
And why are you anxious about clothing?
Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,
yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory
did not clothe himself like one of these.
But if God so arrays the grass of the field,
which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace,
will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?
Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’
or ‘What shall we drink?’
or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?'”

In these current times, we are clearly vulnerable to anxiety about having our needs met (food, drink, clothing, our bodies). Yet God seems to be saying that we are the only earthly creatures who have anxiety about these things — the rest of nature does not work to earn and gather possessions as we do, but God provides for them and they don’t struggle with anxiety. God provides for us to a much greater degree than the rest of nature, but we continue to question Him. Do you ever ask yourself, “Will He actually provide? Don’t I need to make sure I’ve provided for myself and then I can trust in God to provide?”

Jesus gives us our answer in Matthew 6:32-34:

“For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek;
for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness
and all these things shall be added to you.
Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow;
for tomorrow will care for itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

First notice the three references to “all these things” that I emphasized in italics — Jesus is referring to what He addressed in the previous verses — our needs. Food, drink, clothing, our bodies. We seek all these things, but God already knows that we need them. In fact, He is the one who knows most deeply and intimately what we truly need.

The amazing thing about this passage is that Jesus is telling us EXACTLY what we must do to finally free ourselves of the anxiety related to “having enough.” We must seek God first, even before we seek the things that we need. As one of the wise women in the Grace Chapel Women’s Bible study pointed out, God is our greatest need. By seeking Him first we have in essence found the One who will meet all of the needs that follow. The daily needs. The hourly needs. The moment by moment needs. He is at the heart of it all.

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Ten Commandments Bible Study ~ Week 10

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)

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We live in a society of manufactured needs. Television, magazines, and the internet constantly remind us of what other people have, what we don’t have, and what we “must” have to keep up with everyone else around us.

The women of Grace Chapel were asked “What are some examples of manufactured needs?” Here are some of their answers:

  • Large house, cars, clothes
  • Fame in a particular field of work
  • Riches, the same salary as someone else
  • Popularity, beauty
  • For everything to be perfect and to have no suffering in life
  • New school clothes every year
  • Self-fulfillment or self-actualization
  • Marriage or being in love
  • Technology

The one thing that all of these items have in common is that they are “wants”  that we somehow convince ourselves are “needs.” They simply serve to remind us that, as humans, there is a fundamental emptiness in our lives that we are constantly trying to fill.

Many think that this emptiness began in the Garden, when our first parents – who not only had everything they could want but also the very presence of God Himself – chose the one thing they couldn’t have. As Paul describes, “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20-21)

We live in a world that is in bondage to decay. In bondage to longing for what other people have, and yet blind to the fact that nothing except for God and the love of Christ can satisfy the depth of that longing. We were designed to long for God and Him alone.

These last commandments are a fitting summary to the Decalogue. According to our authors, “Here in the last commandments we discover what the whole Decalogue is about – namely, that we were created to love God, and when that love is misdirected, life degenerates into a jumble of disordered desires, fragments testifying that we were meant to be something quite else than what we have become.” (Hauerwas & Willimon, p 130)

As we conclude our study of the Ten Commandments, I pray that you will return to the love for which you were created. I pray that you will embrace the freedom from the bondage to decay that is only found in the blood of our savior, Jesus Christ.

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Thanks so much to the fabulous women of Grace Chapel for your faithful attendance and participation in this study. I enjoyed our discussions immensely and learned so much from you all. See you in the fall for our next study!