A Sermon from Matthew 6:19-25
©February 20, 2011 ~ Tom VanderPloeg
[Illustration with carry-on luggage]
Maybe you know what it’s like to be on a plane with someone who tries to carry everything on and stuff it into those overhead compartments. Or maybe you are one of those people. Either way, Todays passage is about the stuff we carry in this life and what we do with it.
Let’s put some of these ideas together. What’s really at the heart of the issue? What is Jesus really addressing with his audience? You see, we might look at a passage like this and quickly conclude that this is all about materialism. We might read these words and walk away thinking that Jesus is telling us to turn away from the things of this material world and focus only on spiritual things—spiritual meaning non-material or non-physical. Is that what Jesus is talking about? Is Jesus urging us here to take a vow of poverty—to get rid of all this earthly stuff we carry?
Maybe some context can lend us a hand with this passage. Just take a quick look with me at the verses leading up to this passage. This is a section of scripture in Matthew’s gospel known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus begins with the beatitudes in chapter five and then moves through the rest of that chapter by taking laws of the Old Testament and explaining their application. See how he does this all through chapter five; he begins each section with the words, “You have heard that is was said…” and then goes on to recite a law of the Old Testament. But then, each time, Jesus goes on to make an application of each one of those laws. And each application Jesus makes takes those Old Testament laws and spills them over into everyday life. Jesus takes these laws and regulations of the Old Testament makes everyday, real-life implications. Do you get the sense here of what Jesus is doing? It seemed as though each one of these Old Testament laws had a particular compartment or box. And Jesus takes each one of these regulations and breaks open the box so it makes sense in everyday real life for everyday ordinary people.
A box. That’s not a bad way to think about this. Jesus is addressing a group of people who have boxes. One box is the box that holds all-things-religious. This box is the compartment where all those Old Testament laws and regulations belonged. Keeping the commandments given to Moses makes up one box. Then there is another box. It seems that the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus’ day figured a system where they could keep the regulations of religion in one box; and then they could do whatever else they wanted in the other box. It’s as though they were living two lives. In one life, they kept all the literal conditions of the ceremonial laws. But in the other life they could be as corrupt as they wanted—as long as they didn’t break any of the conditions of the law.
This is why Jesus calls them hypocrites in chapter 6:5. Those Pharisees and religious leaders were living two lives. They were separating their lives into two boxes. They were making separate compartments for how they acted and behaved towards others. Or to put it into language that makes sense to our culture today; they were multitasking. Pharisees were tremendous multitaskers. They could divide their attention among these separate compartments, and almost seamlessly bounce back and forth from one box to the other. That’s multitasking; dividing our attention to different actions at the same time. I’m not talking about the walk-and-chew-gum-at-the-same-time kind of multitasking. This is more like texting-while-driving kind of multitasking. The Pharisees are multitasking among activities that are so mutually exclusive that it creates reckless and dangerous results. And Jesus calls them out on it several times.
Multitasking. Dividing our attention in different directions at the same time. The Pharisees seemed to be pretty good at this. They had created a system in which religion was so detached from real life that they lived in two different worlds at the same time. We know about this, don’t we? We live in a world that constantly pushes us to be multitasking. Every day we face situations in which we divide our attention in different directions at the same time. Yup, we’re multitaskers. Our lives are divided into multiple boxes—or multiple compartments. And we take the many events and issues of our days and slot them into the various categories of our lives. Many times, this pressure towards multitasking leads to some rather destructive results. The current media attention being given to texting-while-driving is just one example. When it comes right down to it, you and I are pushed every day to multitask our lives. And when it comes right down to it, we’re not all that good at it, are we? When we try to divide our attention in different directions at the same time, something gets lost, doesn’t it? We just cannot function at our best when multitasking all the time.
Jesus had some pretty specific comments about those who were trying to multitask a division between “religious life” and “real life.” Jesus seems to be making it pretty clear in Matthew five and six that there should not be a separation between religion and life. When Jesus says in our text for today that “no one can serve two masters,” he is saying that we cannot multitask life like that. We cannot play this game of multitasking God. We cannot divide ourselves in those two directions at the same time.
Sometimes we have the tendency to treat our faith like that. Sometimes we find ourselves having settled in to a few “Christian” activities that sort of remain isolated from everything else we do. I go to church, I am in a small group, I attend a Bible study. But somehow that all seems disconnected from everything else. That’s a completely different life than what I do at work, or what I encounter at school. I go to the grocery store, I work out at the health club; these things are part of my world; these are things that I do. I don’t really see how God is a part of that. We multitask. We make divisions. We chase after those treasures here on earth and leave God out of it. We split our time and split our desires, and split our devotion. We multitask. God gets a few areas of my life. But then there are those areas where I leave God out of the picture.
Then it goes a step further. We experience broken and fractured relationships, we have trouble at work or at school, we struggle with depression or anxiety. And now this is our baggage to carry. We have multitasked and divided our lives into so many separate compartments that we leave many of these struggles away from God and try to deal with these struggles on our own. What would it look like for someone to come in here and say, “you know, I’m really struggling with depression right now” or, “my family is really hurting and it seems like we don’t even talk anymore” or “my spouse is deployed in the armed forces and I’m just really lonely.” We multitask and create these divisions between church life and everything else, and then we’re left holding baggage on our own. We have built up our treasures on earth, and when those treasures start creating complications and struggles, we are left to deal with it on our own because we have left God out.
Jesus makes an invitation in the passage for today. Jesus invites us to store treasures in heaven. Jesus is saying that you and I don’t have to keep going though life with all these struggles and issues that we keep apart from him. Jesus says, bring it all to him. When we bring all our treasures to Jesus, we find that the pressure and stress of constantly multitasking between our church life and our everyday life goes away. When sin and brokenness takes its toll on us—when those treasures we chase after on earth create complications—Jesus invites us to bring it to him.
Look at how this plays out in the passage we see today. Jesus says we no longer need to balance these two lives. In the first verses of chapter six Jesus says we do not need to perform acts of righteousness or prayers or spiritual disciplines such as fasting as though there is a separation between these things and God. Jesus is laying out a new pattern for those who follow him. There does not need to be parts of religious life or everyday life that we manage without God. But Jesus invites us to bring it all to him.
And so all those laws and regulations he talks about in chapter five are not items to multitask. But Jesus is saying that they inform us to a pattern of living that saturates everything we do. There does not have to be the separation between religious life and everyday life. But Jesus invites us to make everyday life something we bring to him.
What does this look like? When we multitask worship it becomes something that we just do here for about an hour. But when Jesus invites us to bring it all to him, then we start to see everything we do as an act of worship bringing glory and honor to God. And so we start to see our jobs as being something that glorifies and honors God in how we do our work. We go to school as students who bring honor and glory to God in what we do. Our encounters and interactions with other people throughout the day are opportunities to honor God in the way we love and engage people. And then when we gather here together on Sunday, it is not just an hour of worship, it is the culmination of an entire week of worship.
This is where Jesus is inviting us. These are the ways that God can take our everyday lives and make them lives carried and nurtured and sustained by his grace. It is an invitation that beckons us to stop the constant multitasking between what we do for God and what we do for us.
With all the airlines charging extra fees for baggage these days, it seems like more and more people try to walk onto a plane with everything they can possibly carry and fit into the overhead compartments. It makes the plane kind of a messy place with all that extra stuff people drag inside. It’s not like older days when everybody checked their baggage at the gate and walked on the plane with hardly anything. Sometimes we do that here at church. We check our baggage and leave it at the gate. We all carry baggage in our lives; we all have issues and struggles that weigh us down. And sometimes we come to church to forget about all that for a while; we want church to be an escape from all those things that weigh us down in life. And so we leave all that baggage outside—we leave it at the gate.
But the church is a place for carry-on bags only. Because any of that baggage we carry around in our lives that gets left outside is just waiting out there for you to pick it up again when you leave this place. God doesn’t want that. God doesn’t want us to leave all that stuff outside; he wants us to bring it in here. Sometimes I’ve heard people pray at the beginning of a worship service that God would help us to just forget about everything else so that we can just focus on worshipping God. NO! Do you see what that does? That’s checking our baggage at the gate. That’s telling God that for this hour I’ll shift gears into “Christian-mode,” and then I’ll leave God behind here and go back to pick up all that other stuff—all that stuff I left waiting outside. That’s saying, “God, I trust you for salvation; I thank you for the gift of eternal life with you in paradise. But our hour is up and I really need to be leaving you and going now because I’ve got all this other stuff waiting outside for me to deal with. So, I’ll see you next week.”
Multitasking. I’ve got my Christian life; and then I’ve got my other life. And I need to split my time between these two worlds. God says, “bring it all in to me.” Carry-on luggage only here in the church; no checked baggage allowed. Bring it all in to God. Walk in here taking with you everything that weighs you down. And what you find is that someone is waiting here to help. Jesus wants to take that load of baggage off from you. Jesus says in verse 25, “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” God invites us to stop multitasking our lives away from him. God invites us to be wholly devoted to him.
You see, God’s grace is big enough for that. God’s grace is wide enough to hold all that we can bring to him. God’s grace carries us every moment of every day. God’s grace is strong enough to handle all the baggage we try over and over again to carry on our own. Today, if you left baggage checked outside at the gate, bring it in. Let God’s faithful, strong, everlasting grace carry the load. God’s grace is sufficient. His grace is enough.