Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MATTHEW 6:25 (Luther)

Matthew 6:25. Therefore I tell you, do not be concerned about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

The Lord expands and enlarges His vigorous sermon against this dangerous vice, because, as we have said, it usually intrudes violently alongside the Gospel and attacks not only the world but also the Christians. It is especially fierce against those who are supposed to preach the Word of God and who are surrounded by all sorts of dangers on its account. They suffer contempt and oppression from the world, and as far as the flesh is concerned, they would have reason enough to be concerned. Anyone who wants to be a Christian and to confess his Lord arouses the hostility of the devil, his enemy. The devil is a prince of this world (John 16:11), who therefore opposes and attacks Him, not through the Word and faith, but through that which is subject to the devil’s own kingdom and authority. Now our good-for-nothing body, our flesh and blood, is still in his kingdom. He can really plague this, he can throw it into jail, he can deprive it of food and drink and clothing. And so this danger continually surrounds us, together with everything we have. Meanwhile flesh and blood is trying to figure out how much it can get for its security and how it can avoid danger. This is the origin of the temptation called “concern about making a living”; of course, the world does not regard it as a temptation but as a virtue, and it praises the people who set their sights on great property and honor.
Listen now to what serving Mammon means. It means being concerned about our life and our body, about what we should eat and drink and put on. It means thinking only about this life, about how to get rich here and how to accumulate and increase our money and property, as though we were going to stay here forever. The sinful worship of Mammon does not consist in eating and drinking and wearing clothes, nor in looking for a way to make a living and working at it; for the needs of this life and of the body make food and clothing a requirement. But the sin consists in being concerned about it and making it the reliance and confidence of your heart. Concern does not stick to clothing or to food, but directly to the heart, which cannot let a thing go and has to hang on to it. As the saying goes, “Property makes a person bold.” Thus “being concerned” means clinging to it with your heart. I am not concerned about anything that my heart does not think about, but I must have a heart for anything about which I am concerned.
You must not tighten this text too much, however, as if it prohibited any kind of concern at all. Every office and station involves taking on certain concerns, especially being in charge of other people. As St. Paul says about spiritual offices in Christendom (Rom. 12:8): “He who rules, let him be careful.” In this sense the head of a household has to be concerned about whether his children are being brought up properly and whether his servants are doing their duty; if he neglects this, he does wrong. Similarly it is the concern of a minister or preacher to carry on his preaching and to administer the Sacrament properly, to comfort the sorrowing and the sick, to denounce the wicked, and to pray for needs of every kind; for he has the command to wait upon souls and to guide them. Thus princes and others in government have to be concerned about the proper administration of the secular realm, as their office requires. And subjects, in turn, should be concerned about loyally showing and performing their obedience. Servants should be concerned about serving their masters well and saving them from any damage.
Christ is not talking here about this sort of concern. This is an official concern, which must be sharply distinguished from greed. It is not concerned for its own sake but for the neighbors sake; it does not seek its own interests (1 Cor. 13:5), but even neglects them and forgets them in order to serve somebody else. Therefore it may be called a concern of love, something divine and Christian, not a concern devoted to its own advantage or to Mammon, militating against faith and love, and even interfering with the official concern. The man whose money is dear to him and who is on the lookout for his own advantage will not have much regard for his neighbor or for the office that involves his neighbor. This has been evident until now in our clergy. They were not the least bit concerned about how to take proper care of souls. They concentrated everything on making the world bring them enough donations. Whoever did not bring them any money was simply left standing; none of them would even say an Our Father for somebody else without being paid for it. But a pious preacher is concerned about properly carrying out the duties of his office for the good of souls. It does not bother him that he is not getting very much for it, in fact, that he has to endure all sorts of things for it, letting serpents bite him and bearing the hostility of the world and the devil. He leaves in God’s hands the matter of where he will get his food, and he comforts himself with the prospect of another treasure in another life, a treasure so great that all the misfortune he has to suffer here is too tiny even to be compared with it (Rom. 8:18). It is for this treasure that he is doing all this.
Christ has forbidden this greedy concern and worship of Mammon as an idolatry that makes men enemies of God. Now He goes on with many statements, examples, and illustrations, intended to make greed so repulsive to us and to give it such an odious appearance that we will feel like spitting on it. First of all He says: “Is not life more than food? That is, you can and you must entrust your life, your body, and your soul to God. It does not lie within your power to preserve this for a single hour. What fools you are, then, if you do not entrust the needs of your body to Him, too, for Him to provide you with food and drink! It would be the greatest foolishness imaginable to be scrupulously concerned about getting food and drink but to be unconcerned about getting body and life or preserving them for an hour. That would be like being concerned about the beautiful decoration of your house hut not knowing who was going to live there, or being concerned in the kitchen about the preparation of a big, expensive meal but not having anybody to eat it.” That is how we behave in our greed: we are concerned about the little things, and we never think of the big things. Such concern is really unnecessary and superfluous, in fact, foolish. Even though we were to be deeply concerned about our body and its life, this would not accomplish a thing, since it does not lie within our power even for a moment, any more than grain growing in a field where we did not do the planting, or silver in a mine where we did not put it.
We have to get rid of care, then, throughout all of our lives, since these are being preserved every hour by God, and that without any thought or action on our part. So what is the point of our foolish concern about the little things, as though He neither could nor would give us food and shelter? We should be ashamed of ourselves, giving anyone a chance to say that we are this foolish. Yet foolish is the only word for the way we live, especially the great, rich bellies. All they are ever concerned about is having their kitchens filled and their pantries generously stocked, and yet they have no tables or guests. Or they have many luxurious beds all made up, but with no one to sleep in them. Now, if a shoemaker did nothing all his life but fill his shop with lasts, without even giving a thought to where he would get the leather for making a shoe, he would be called crazy and foolish and would be driven out of the country.
Thus, you see, Christ is showing us what foolish people we are, to make us want to spit on ourselves. Yet we go along in our blindness, although it is obvious that we should not be concerned about our body and life. Even if we were concerned, that in itself would have to make us become Christians and think: “You see, not even for a moment do I have my life in my own hands. Now, since I have to entrust my body and life to God, why should I have any doubts and concerns about my belly and about how it is to be fed for a day or two?” It is like having a rich father who would be willing to give me a thousand guldens, and then not trusting him to give me a groschen when I need it.
Luther, M. (1999, c1956). Vol. 21: Luther's works, vol. 21 : The Sermon on the Mount and the Magnificat (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (21:192). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

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