Worldliness and Trust
J. R. Miller, 1909
The Christian life is very simple—if only we understand it. It has only one principle—single-hearted devotion to Christ. Paul stated this principle when he said, "To me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21) Jesus states it here also when He says, "Seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness."
In our present passage, we have a whole scheme of life.
To begin with, we must find something real and permanent to live for. It concerns the matter of possessions. Earth's banks are not absolutely safe; and even if they were, they are not eternal. We are immortal, and we must find a place of deposit secure for immortal years. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal."
How can we lay up treasures in heaven? By living for God, by committing our lives to Jesus Christ, by spending our money for the glory of God. There are men who possess little money or property when they leave this world—but are rich in treasures laid up in heaven. Paul had only the clothes he wore, an old cloak and a few sacred parchments when his martyrdom came—but he was rich beyond measure in glory! There are millionaires here—who will be beggars in the next life; and there are poor men here—who will have an inheritance of glory in heaven.
Single-heartedness is the secret of true godly living. "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." Some people seem to think they can keep on safe terns with God—and at the same time maintain close relations with the world. The Master's teaching here shows us that it is impossible to be half God's—and half the world's. There is room for only one lord in our life, and we must settle who this will be. If we belong to God, the world is our servant. It seems strange indeed that anyone with an immortal soul, should be willing to have mammon—money—for his god. Money may do much good and be a great blessing, if it is used for God—but when a man gets down upon his knees to his money, crawls in the dust for its sake, and sells his manhood to get it—it has only curse for him. One who truly serves God—cannot give money half his heart. God will not share a human heart with any other master.
A great many people are talking now about the secret of happy living. The Master gives it here. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life." Anxiety is very common. There is a great deal of worrying in the world, even among good people. One does not meet very many whose faces shine always with the light of a perfect peace. The majority of faces show lines of care. Not many people pass undisturbed through all manner of experiences. Is worrying a sin—or is it only an infirmity? There certainly are a great many cautions and warnings in the Bible against worrying.
But how can we help it? Paul tells us how to keep worry out of our life. "In nothing be anxious." But how can we obey this counsel? What shall we do with the things that we would naturally worry about? Here is the answer: "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." That is, instead of worrying about matters that would naturally fret us—we are to put them out of our own hands—into God's hands, by prayer. Then we have this assurance: "The peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6, 7).
It will help us with our lesson, if we look carefully at the connections of the words as they stand in the Gospel. "You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious." That is, anxiety comes from serving mammon. We say we are God's children—yet when mammon seems to be failing, and then we begin to worry. That is, we trust mammon more than we trust our Father. We feel safer when mammon's abundance fills our hands—than when mammon threatens to fail and we have only God. If we truly served God only, we should not be afraid, though we have nothing of mammon, not even bread for tomorrow.
Jesus illustrates His teaching: "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them." Elsewhere Jesus says that not even a sparrow is forgotten by our Father. The sparrows are the most useless and the most troublesome of all birds. You can buy two of them for a farthing. Yet God watches over them, and not one of them shall fall to the ground without His permission. If God so cares for quarrelsome sparrows, He will care much more for His own children. We are of more value than many sparrows. Souls are of great worth—it took the blood of the Son of God to buy us back from bondage. Birds do not bear the Divine image. They have no spiritual nature. The God who cares for the soulless little birds—will surely care much more thoughtfully, more tenderly, for a thinking, immortal being, capable of eternal life. God is our Father—He is not the birds' father; He is their creator and provider—but they are not His children. A woman will give more thought to her baby—than to her canary. Our heavenly Father will provide more certainly for His children—than for His birds.
Worrying is also most useless. "Which of you by being anxious, can add one cubit unto the measure of his life?" A short person cannot, by any amount of anxiety, make himself and inch taller. Therefore, why should he waste his energy and fret his life away—in wishing he were taller, and in worrying because he is not?
Worrying about a coming trouble—does not keep the trouble away! Worrying over a loss—does not bring back that which is gone. People find obstacles, difficulties and hindrances in their life. There are hard conditions in their lot. But is there any use in worrying over these things? Will it make them any easier? Will anxiety cure the lame foot, remove the ugly mole, reduce the undesired tumor, or put flesh on the thin body? Will fretting make the heavy burden lighter, the hard work easier, the rough way smoother? Will anxiety keep the winter away, put coal in the bin, or bread in the pantry, or get clothes for the children?
Even philosophy shows the uselessness of worrying, since it helps nothing, and only wastes one's strength, unfitting one for doing his best. But religion goes father than philosophy, and tells us that even the hard things, the drawbacks, the obstacles, may be changed into blessings—if we meet them in the right spirit. So we learn that we should quietly and with faith accept life as it comes to us, fretting at nothing, changing hard conditions to easier if we can—but if not, using them as a means for growth and advancement.
The fact that God cares for us—ought to keep us from worry. "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Does God really care for the flowers? Yes, He weaves for them their matchless garments and fills their little cups with fragrance. Yet they live but for a day. If God clothes these frail plants so gloriously for only a few hours' beauty—will He not far more surely clothe His own children?
It is told of Mungo Park the great traveler, that once in the desert he was famishing for drink, and could find no water. In his exhaustion he had sunk down in the hot sands of despair, and had given up to die. He saw a tiny shoot of moss growing in the sand, and the thought came to him, "God tends this little plant. He placed it here and He is watering it. Surely, then, He will not forget me—but will provide for me, too." He roused up from his despair and passed on and was saved.
Here we come upon the great principle of Christian living. "Seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." That is, we are to put all the energy of our thought and life into one effort—to do God's will. We are not to to worry about our clothing or food—that is God's matter, not ours at all. We are to take thought, however, about our duty, our work, the doing of God's will, and the filling of our place in the world. Too many people worry far more about their food and clothing, lest they shall be left to need, than they do about doing well their whole duty. That is, they are more anxious about God's part in their life—than about their own! They fear that God may not take care of them—but they do not have any fear that they may fail in faithfulness to Him.
It will be a great point gained, if we learn here once and for all that providing for our needs—is God's matter, not ours; and that our first and only care should be our duty, the doing of our work. This God will never do for us—but if we are true to Him we shall never have any occasion to fret ourselves about our care. Suppose we are nearly starving? Well, we must go on, doing our duty in the circumstances, and not worrying; and in due time, perhaps at the last moment—but somehow or other, and in some way, the Lord will provide. Or if not, He will take us home.