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  • SERMONS OF MARTIN LUTHER -
    FIFTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.


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    SECOND SERMON.

    MATTHEW 6:24-34.

    The following sermon appears in the c. edition. Erl. 14, 103;. St. L. 11, 1628.

    CHRISTIANS SHOULD NOT BE ANXIOUS FOR THINGS OF THIS LIFE, BUT SEEK THE KINGDOM OF GOD.

      * Avarice and anxiety are the fruits of unbelief. 1.

    I. This Exhortation in General.

      1. How Christ distinguishes between his kingdom and that of the world.

      2. The character of the persons addressed. 3.

    II. THIS EXHORTATION IN DETAIL.

      THE SAME AS PARAGRAPHS 4-36 IN THE PRECEDING SERMON.

    III. THE INCENTIVE TO FAITH.

      1. To What Persons Does Christ Give This Incentive.

      2. The Ground and Cause of This Incentive. 38-39.

      3. The Incentive Itself.

      A. In general. 39-40.

      B. In detail.

      1. The first part of this incentive.

      2. The second part. 41-42. 3 . The third part.

      4. The fourth part. 44-46.

      5. The fifth part. 47-48.

    1. This Gospel is a part of the long sermon Christ delivered to his disciples on the mount, in which among other things he especially warned and admonished his disciples against the infamous vice of avarice and anxiety for daily bread, the legitimate fruit and proof of our unbelief. This does great harm in Christendom when it takes possession of those in the office of the ministry, who should be occupied by nothing except teaching the Word of God and faith aright, and chastising the error and sin of the world; or when it possesses these it should confess God’s Words before all persons and be prepared to serve everybody for the sake of God, even if they be obliged on that account to lose their riches, honor, body and life.

    2. Christ wishes also to teach here how he desires to have his kingdom distinguished from the civil life and government, that he will not govern his Christendom upon earth so that it be conceived and vested as a government where Christians are first of all to be amply provided with temporal goods, riches and power, and who need not fear any need or danger; but he wishes to provide them with spiritual treasures and what their souls need, so that they may have his Word, the consolation of his grace, and the power and strength of the Holy Spirit against sin and death unto everlasting life. Moreover whatever they need of temporal things for this life and the necessaries for present wants they are to expect also from him, and they are not to be terrified if they do not see this before their eyes and have it prepared for the future, and are tempted by want and need. On the other hand they are to know that their God and Father will care for them and will surely give them all if they with firm faith are only anxious about and seek how they may continue faithful to his word and in his kingdom, and serve him there.

    3. Therefore Christ makes a distinction in this sermon, by which he separates his Christians from the heathen and unbelievers. For he does not deliver this doctrine to the heathen as they do not accept it, but to those who are already Christians. He does not however consider those Christians, who only hear his word and can repeat it, like the nuns do the Psalter. In this way satan also hears the Gospel and the Word of God, yea, he knows it better than we, and can preach it just as well as we, if he only wished to do so. But the Gospel is doctrine that is to be a living power and put into practice; it should strengthen and comfort the people and make us courageous and aggressive. Therefore they who only hear the Gospel thus, so that they know and can speak about it, are not to be classed among Christians; but those who believe and do as the Gospel teaches are righteous. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other: or else he will hold to one and despise the other.”

    4. Now he, who tries to serve two masters, will do it in a way that cannot be called serving at all; for it will certainly be as the Lord here says. One can indeed compel a servant to do a certain work against his will and he may grieve while doing it; but no one can compel him to do it cheerfully, and mean it from the bottom of his heart. He of course does the work as long as his master is present, but when he is absent, he hurries away from his task, and does nothing well. Hence the Lord desires our service to be done out of love and cheerfully, and where it is not done thus, it is no service to him: for even people are not pleased when one does anything for them unwillingly. This is natural, and we experience daily that it is so.

    Now, if it be the case among human beings that no one can serve two masters, how much more is it true in the service of God, that our service cannot be divided; but it must be done unto God alone, willingly and from the heart; hence the Lord adds: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

    5. God cannot allow us to have another Lord besides himself. He is a jealous God, as he says, and cannot suffer us to serve him and his enemy.

    We find very few, who do not sin against the Gospel. The Lord passes a severe judgment and it is terrible to hear, that he should say this of us; and yet no one will confess, yea, no one will suffer it to be said that we hate and despise God, and that we are his enemies. There is no one, when asked if he loves God and cleaves to him, who would not reply: Dost thou take me to be such a desperate character as to be an enemy of God? But see how the text here closes, that we all hate and despise God, and love and cleave to mammon. For it is impossible that he, who loves gold and riches and cleaves to them, should not hate God. Christ here holds the two opposed to one another and as enemies, and says: If you love one of these two and cleave to the same, then you must hate and despise the other.

    However well a man may live here upon the earth, if he clings to riches it cannot be otherwise than that he must hate God. And whoever does not trust in gold and worldly riches, loves God. This is certain. 6-36. F5 “Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For alter all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.”

    37. As I said at the beginning Christ delivered this sermon to his Christians, especially to those in the office of the ministry or to those who otherwise either had nothing or never could acquire and gather for themselves riches and mammon, as the rest of the world does; in order that they might know, from what source they could nourish and support themselves and their families. Yea, they are compelled to live in the danger of being robbed of the little earthly goods God gave them and thus they are without the least doubt compelled to live entirely upon the help that God sends them and they expect from him, since the world gives them nothing.

    38. This is indeed painful to flesh and blood, and is very burdensome to them, yea, no one can bear or do it, unless he is a believing Christian. For the world is so disposed that it will not take the least risk in temporal matters for the future; but it must be sure of them, order beforehand and have in store and ready for use whatever it needs, as food, peace, protection and insurance, so that it can live and depend upon neither God nor the people; but as it is evident that the world enriches no one because of his faith and piety, they think they must act and live as others do, in order that they may nevertheless have also something.

    39. Against this he herewith comforts and strengthens his Christians, and again repeats: They shall therefore not worry nor doubt nor wriggle in such unbelief, saying: Oh, what is to become of us? Who is going to give us anything? Where in this world are we Christians to get food, protection, peace? But they must know that their heavenly Father provides for this, and will also give it to them, he who for this very reason is called their Father (not the unbelievers’, although he feeds all the world, and gives everything), in order to show that he will also not leave his children, tie leads them into God’s high work of the whole creation, that they may see how he nourishes and supports all things which he creates, after having ordered and regulated each one, — also all the birds in the air, which, as you know, do not fret about their food nor know beforehand whither they shall take it. Aye, especially also the little flowers does he so deck and adorn that such beauty and :finery might more fittingly be supplied elsewhere; for does it not seem quite useless, since they only bloom for perchance a day? Must he not therefore much more think and care for his Christians, how they may be fed and clad, and where they might dwell and stay as long as they have to live on earth?

    40. This he admonishes them to believe; and to impress them most strongly with it, not by many but by earnest words, he suddenly breaks off after having held up to them the examples from daily life and God’s work among his Creatures; and closes with these words: Shall he not much more do such things for you, O ye of little faith? He wishes to say: Well, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves, if you are Christians and know that you have a Father in heaven, to let me do so much preaching about this! Yes, ashamed you ought to be, and not permit that such things be said of you.

    But must I not say it, that ye are so small and have so little faith, and that ye so little confide without doubt and care in the living God, who gives you his Word and promise and has chosen you as his children — that he would nourish and support your body and life? How then Will ye stand without shame and disgrace, not alone before God but before all his creatures, if that is to be said of you, and you yourselves by your own confession must testify that you, having so plentifully God’s word and grace, so little trust him with caring for your miserable maggot-sack and stinking belly?

    41. Still more strongly does he speak to them by saying: “After all these things do the Gentiles seek” etc. This ought surely to deter a Christian, when he hears the public and terrible verdict spoken that those who worry and hanker after mammon are heathen, that is, people who really have no God; who, instead of God, serve mammon, in which there is only God’s name and naught but lies and vanity; who therefore are wholly cut off from God, deprived of all divine knowledge, comfort, grace and bliss. These are none other than the most miserable, most unfortunate, condemned people, who have never any salvation or comfort to hope for.

    42. Here you see the world pictured, what sort of a thing it is, namely the big, mighty crowd — excepting a very few Christians — who, as soon as they have grown up, turn altogether away from God and serve mammon, the god of lies. Him do they hold as the great, aye, the only god, because the crowd that follows him is so great; nevertheless he is nothing, a mere powerless name. So a Christian should truly be horrified and shocked, when thinking of such blindness and misery of the world; he should with sighs and tears strive and work for it to be far removed from such shameful practices, and run from it, as run he can, as it were out of a fire, aye, out of the midst of hell.

    43. Thirdly, in order in the most loving and comforting way to entice us to believe he again says: “Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.” Is he not your father, and only your father — not the birds’, the geese’ or ducks’, nor the godless heathens’ father! Then trust him to be so loving that he will as a father care for you and neither forget nor leave you; aye, that he has long before known what he should give you, and has provided therefor ere you yourselves think of it or feel your wants.

    For who but he has before known or thought what you would be or need, ere you were born into this world? Therefore honor him so far as to believe that he sees and knows such things and, knowing them, will act with you as a father. “But seek ye first his kingdom and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

    44. That is the chief passage in this sermon, and states the right rule and manner how we are to proceed in order to get both the divine or eternal gift, and what we need for this life. Would you rightly and well take care whereof it behooves you to take care, then let this be the first, aye, indeed, your only care, that you strive according to God’s Word to do your duty, to serve him in his kingdom as his Word teaches you — for in this consists the righteousness belonging to this kingdom — and to prize this more highly than all pertaining unto this temporal life.

    If you do this you have done and provided well and need not take any further burdens upon you nor cherish any cares in your heart; indeed, it should be much too small a thing for you to care for so slight a matter as the wants of your belly, and therefore to aggrieve yourselves. Rather do this for the honor of God, and furthermore for your own use and benefit, that you strive after the great and eternal good; which if you attain and keep, the rest will surely take care of itself. Neither can you in any better way arrive at obtaining it from God, than in this wise that you first seek and ask of him the great things.

    45. For this is to his liking, that we ask great things of him, and that he be able to give great and many things. And for the reason that he gladly gives great things, he will also not stint the small things, but throw them to boot into the bargain. This God has constantly caused many pious people to experience, who, following this rule and precept, have striven to help in building God’s kingdom, have served the church, furthered God’s Word, and given thereto of their means. He then on the other hand has richly blessed them with goods, honor, etc. This is evidenced by the old examples not only of the Scriptures, but also by the history of some of our pious kings and princes, who, first having given plentifully for parishes and pulpits, for the support of the holy ministry and for schools, have thereby not become poorer, but were much more richly blessed and endowed by God, so that they have reigned in good peace, with victory and good fortune.

    46. This he would gladly still do, if the world could or would haply for its own good follow the well-meant advice which he here gives, and not with unbelief, greed and unchristianlike scheming rage against his Word, to its own harm and ruin. So must he turn this Word with her and prove the contrary; that he who will not strive after God’s kingdom and his righteousness, but despises the same and reckons to provide for himself, against God’s will, by means of his own wisdom and plotting, must be deprived both of the eternal and of the temporal, and either not obtain the temporal or at least not be satisfied and happy with it. “Be not therefore anxious for the morrow; for the morrow will be anxious for itself Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

    47. The world is always anxious about the future, and therewith thinks to assure its fate and to bring this much about that it may be removed from danger, protect and support itself. They see not the vanity thereof, and that their projects go wrong; that it be true, and experience testifies, as Christ here says, that each day brings its own misfortune and evil. Thus it comes to pass that, with such plottings and prudence of their own, whereby they mean to ensure themselves and to forestall all coming danger, the world only causes the more woe and harm. For whenever they see that things do not go as they expected, or that an accident happens, then they begin to despond, think of one remedy and another, and imagine they must, wherever and as best they can, look for help, protection and safety; thus they patch for themselves and think to help matters by all sorts of strange craftiness and practices, whereunto they are driven by unbelief, against God and their conscience, thus to carry out what they have in mind, albeit they see that God does not prosper such things. Hence springs so much misfortune, misery, murder, war, and all mischief and misdoing of the wicked world. Each one means to carry out his affairs without God, to oppress and choke whosoever would hinder him, and rather to throw all things higgledy-piggledy on a heap than to desist from his mind. Thereby in all affairs and governments all good things perish and naught but evil grows; as all history and daily experience more than amply show.

    48. Against this Christ would caution his believers, that they may not waver nor stake their affairs on that which is uncertain, vainly caring for the future, but at all times and daily do that which is right; that they may not worry how things will come out, nor permit themselves to be swerved by future and uncertain good or evil things; but rather commend care to God, and then take everything that occurs to them in good part and overcome it with faith and patience. For it cannot be on earth otherwise than that each one daily in his office, estate and calling meet with other things than he gladly welcomes, which causes him much trouble and labor.

    Hence does also Christ call this life daily evil or misfortune, that is to say, all sorts of misfortune, resistance, hindrance; that we may know it and be prepared for it, so as not to be frightened by any of them from doing good, neither yet to hanker after the world and become partakers in its unrighteous and evil affairs, — thereby leading ourselves and others into ruin and damnation.

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