I love it when the Daily Office gives me a chance to revisit a text from Sunday’s lectionary. It’s as if the universe is asking me to reconsider everything I thought I had already figured out. And today’s gospel lesson (Matthew 6:24-34) is one of those passages that I never seem to get quite right. It’s always eluding my attempts to nail it down.
The word that jumped out at me this morning was “therefore.” It comes right near the beginning—in verse 25: Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters…you cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…” When I read this lesson on Sunday, verse 24 (the bit about not serving two masters) sounded like it belonged with the passage before it rather than with the verses that follow (the bit about not worrying). The “therefore” caught my eye this morning as if saying to me, “No, it belongs right here. Now figure out why.”
Jesus seems to be establishing a link between worship and worry. He declares without equivocation, “You cannot serve two masters. You cannot worship both God and wealth.” Then, he follows it up by saying, “Therefore, do not be anxious…” It’s as if he wants me to realize that by being anxious about my life—food, drink, clothing—I run the risk of worshipping the false god of mammon—the antiquated term that personifies wealth or material possessions. Somehow, according to Jesus, focusing my emotional energy on those things I’m worried about gets in the way of my unadulterated worship of the God who takes care of all my needs. Makes sense, huh?
In a sense, this is the opposite of faithful stewardship. Where my treasure is, there will my heart be also. If giving my treasure back to God helps align my heart with God’s will, then worrying about what I don’t have produces within my heart a sense of God’s absence rather than God’s abundance. As I tighten my grip on what I have—a reaction based in fear and anxiety—I make it harder to sense God’s never-failing provision. And our worship of God is a response to an awareness of his presence in our lives. When we recognize who God is and what he is doing for us, the only response can be worship. If I’ve filled my life with worry—a de facto expression of faithlessness—then it’s hard to worship anything but my own fears.