Home > Trinity 6-15 > Prosperity gods v. the Crucified God. Trinity 15 2013 Sermon. Matthew 6:24-34

Prosperity gods v. the Crucified God. Trinity 15 2013 Sermon. Matthew 6:24-34

jesus' back 1114th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church [Picnic at Hammel Woods at 10:45]

St. Matthew 6:24-34

September 8, 2013

“Prosperity gods vs. the crucified God””



“No one can serve two lords,” says our Lord Jesus.  But this is America, where no one is supposed to serve any lords or have any masters.  Well, we have them anyway.  The arrangements are just different.


Freedom is hard.  It comes at a cost; you can’t have everything you want, but only what you can provide for yourself.  If you want to be free you have to be prepared to give up pleasures and even your life.


At one time most people had lords, and they called it what it was.  The lord provided food and protection and the people owed him service.  Sometimes a talented person would be called on to serve two lords—the king and the pope, for instance.


But what Jesus says is true.  You can’t really serve two.  One will have your loyalty and respect.  One you will trust to take care of you and provide for you.  He will have your allegiance.  The other one will not.


For either he will love the one and hate the other, or he will be loyal to the one and look down on the other.  You cannot serve both God and Mammon.


Our translation says “God and money.”  But the actual word is “mammon”, and it means something more than just money.  Mammon refers to wealth and goods in excess of what you need to live.


What you actually need to live is a lot less than what we are accustomed to having.  We say we need or have to do a lot of things that people didn’t need or have to do until 40 years ago or 5 years ago.


At one time when our Synod had conventions the delegates probably stayed in the homes of local church members.  The conventions were held in a church or a school.  But now we “need” to stay in nice hotels and rent out convention centers.


These days a college education is considered a “need.”  It’s a “need” for us to place parents and grandparents to be in a nursing home when they are not able to take care of themselves.


Understand what I’m saying—not that college or hotels or convention centers are wasting money.  But you can live without them.  You won’t starve if you don’t go to college.


When Jesus told people about the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, early in the 1st century, needs were reckoned a lot differently.  No one was guaranteed a good job or a better life for their children.  In fact it would be closer to the truth to say that you were guaranteed not to have a good job.


It was normal to be hungry.  If you lived your life in poverty or slavery and if your children had little chance of a better life, no one would call that a tragedy.  They would call it life.


The Jews remembered what Americans, even Christian Americans, have mostly forgotten—we have been thrown out of paradise.  We live in a cursed world.  The Lord promised to feed us by grace alone.  He commanded us to work.  He did not promise that our work would be rewarding.  He said to the man:

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

            Cursed is the ground because of you;

            In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.

            Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;

            And you will eat the plants of the field.

            By the sweat of your face you will eat bread

            Till you return to the ground,

            Because from it you were taken;

            For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  (Gen. 3:17-19)


In other words—your life is supposed to stink.

It was supposed to be painful when Adam and Eve were cursed and thrown out of paradise.  They weren’t supposed to make a new paradise for themselves, but put all their hope in the word that God spoke to the serpent:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,

            And between your seed and her seed;

            He shall bruise you on the head,

            And you shall bruise him on the heel.  (Gen. 3:15)


That was the first promise that God would become “the offspring of a woman”, a human being.  God intended that we would not try to make a paradise out of this cursed earth, but that we would find our paradise in the promise of Jesus’ coming.


So it’s not wrong to have plenty to eat (like we do), lots of clothes, a car, an education, a cell phone, cable, internet, modern medicine, a good job.


It’s just that we don’t need them.  You can live without them.  All the generations of human beings that had to exist in order for us to be born lived and didn’t have these things.


What we have that is more than we need to survive is “mammon.”  Jesus doesn’t say you can’t have it, but He says you can’t serve it and serve God.


In America we have God and mammon confused.  We think a comfortable, healthy, happy life is the same as having God.  America’s god is mammon, but Americans mistakenly think it is the one true God.


And the Church in America has served mammon in an attempt to make itself attractive to Americans.  The church has become a temple to Mammon, to success and prosperity and happiness.  Successful, growing American churches look like business convention centers or like shopping malls.


We shouldn’t expect that we can bring people to the true God by reinforcing the idea that God is found wherever there is happiness and prosperity.  The God we preach was not successful in that sense.  He was not a successful entrepreneur.  He had no place to lay his head.  He did not have influential, powerful friends.  He had one set of clothes, which was taken from Him, and He was nailed naked to a cross.  He was spit on and laughed at while He died.  And all His disciples were offended and abandoned Him.


Lutherans may not be as blatant in preaching the god of prosperity, but the mindset is still there.  If I don’t get my desires met at this Lutheran church I’ll just go to the one down the road that does things the way I like.


And even where there are Christians who believe that the crucified God is the real God and our Savior, even there our trust and love of mammon is troublingly apparent.


It’s often hard to tell the difference between the Lord of the Christians and the lord of secular America.  It’s like there is a difference in interpretation in which things are allowed by the Lord, but no disagreement about who the Lord is.  For both he is the god of contentment.  If contentment for me is church and mom and apple pie, and for you it is sex, drugs, and rock and roll, we’re still worshipping the same god.


Our God is not the God who shows that He loves you when you’re wealthy.  He is the God who shows that He loves you by proclaiming His Son who was crucified for you—both when you are prosperous and when you are in need.


So we find ourselves saying, “I can’t afford to support the preaching of the Word,” even though we have all kinds of stuff that we don’t really need.  We can’t afford it because there is a competition between the Word and mammon.  This is if we are Christians.  Then there is a competition; the Holy Spirit fighting with the flesh which wants to serve mammon instead of God.




The Gentiles run after these things because they don’t know God.


But you do; He is your Father in heaven.  Not because He gives you good things.  He does that, but He is your Father in heaven because He catches you and draws you to believe in Him through His Son.


In the Son You know the Father.  He is a gracious God and Father and He knows what you need.  Not because you see or feel his grace but because He reveals it in His Son.


Yes, you are worth more than the grass in the field, which is clothed so excellently and gloriously but is here today and tomorrow thrown into the fire.  Aren’t you worth more than the birds?  And the Father feeds them.  What do they do to get fed?  Nothing.  They do what is theirs to do—be birds.


You will be fed and clothed, but not with the mammon of unrighteousness, the splendor of the world.  Life is more than eating; your body is more than food.


Your body is meant for the Lord, and the Lord for your body.  Your body is not meant to be adorned just with the splendor of Solomon, with material glory that like the flesh is subject to corruption.  It is meant to be adorned with incorruptible splendor.  This perishable must put on the imperishable and this mortal must put on immortality.


The righteousness of God put on you in Baptism; the resurrection of Jesus, who was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.  (Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…that is the resurrection.  Not that we have already attained this or have already been made perfect, but one thing we do…we strive to take hold of that for which Christ has taken hold of us)


Life is more than eating.  Life is more than putting food in your mouth.  It is more than enjoyment.


Life is in the kingdom of God.  In the kingdom of God life comes to you because another gave his life for you, and one life gives life to another.  In the kingdom of God we give our life for others and in so doing we receive true life, the life of God.


So Jesus says, “Don’t be anxious.”  The Father will give you what you need to stay alive, and more; He will give you real life.  Don’t be afraid.


We think we have life when we have secured those things that get pleasure.  The Gospel says we have life from the Father who gave us His Son.


When He gives us things that bring pleasure and relief we can enjoy them.  When He does not give them we have what is better; we have a Father in heaven who loves us and gives us what we need.


We serve mammon thinking it will give life.  But our Father in heaven, the true God, gives us life in His Son Jesus.  So if He gives us life without much more than food and clothing He gives us what is good.  If He gives us life where we abound instead of having little He also give us life and gives us what is good.  Trying to secure happiness through mammon is impossible.  Life is more than eating and wearing clothes.  You can’t eat or wear a good conscience.  That comes only through the Father Who gave His Son for us, who gave His Son into our death so that we have His life.


In the Son we begin to live the same life.


You can’t serve God and mammon; God did not give His own Son to enjoy Himself and seek His own but to give everything up for others.  If God is found in mammon, in having more, then Jesus did not have God.


But you do have God; He gave Himself to you, He gave His Kingdom and Righteousness to You in the the death of His Son.  We don’t seek first his kingdom and righteousness to earn it for ourselves.  We seek His kingdom and righteousness because it is ours and it is where our life and joy really are.


So don’t be afraid.  Don’t try to please the world.  You’re not obligated to serve it or the flesh, but instead to trust Your Father in heaven who will give you what you need and who is pleased with you in Christ apart from your works.  Forget about trying to please the world and your flesh.  Rejoice that you have salvation from your Father in heaven, and that you have His love in everything that comes your way, even suffering.  Then since you have already everything from the Father, forget about yourself and pleasure and lose yourself in faith in your Father in heaven and in loving service to your neighbor; this pleases Him.  And this is where the joy and the life that is more than food and putting on clothes is—in the kingdom of God where by faith in the Son of God you join with Him and give your life away and thus find it.




The Peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.





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