Sermon for Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25th, 2021
The Lessons: Deuteronomy 8:1-10; Psalm 65:1-8; James 1:17-27; Matthew 6:25-33
The Text: Matthew 6:25-33
The Topic: Living a life of trust in God and thankfulness
Martin Luther, the great reformer, once described his favorite preacher:
“I have one preacher I love better than any other; it is my little tame robin, who preaches to me daily. I put his crumbs upon my windowsill, especially at night. He hops onto the sill when he wants his supply and takes as much as he desires to satisfy his need. From thence he always hops to a little tree close by, and lifts up his voice to God, and sings his carol of praise and gratitude, tucks his little head under his wings, and goes fast to sleep, to leave tomorrow to look after itself.”
(pp. 290-291, Martin Luther: The Table Talk of Martin Luther. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1952)
MATTHEW 6:25-33: THE CALL TO A LIFE OF SIMPLICITY
The little tame robin exemplified to Martin Luther a life of simplicity and trust in God. The little robin’s carol of praise and gratitude reflects his simple faith in God for the provision of his needs. It is to a life of simplicity that the Lord Jesus calls his disciples in this beautiful passage from the Sermon on the Mount.
The first command Jesus issues in this passage is, “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on” (Matthew 6:25, KJV). This appears to be a careless attitude to the necessities of life, but it makes better sense, when we read the verse which precedes it:
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
(Matthew 6:24, KJV)
Jesus’ command not to be anxious flows from his command to serve God and not mammon, or materialism since no-one can serve both. People may think they can serve God devotedly and acceptably while idolizing money, but it is impossible. While we think we love God more, the other love is always pulling us away from loving God, and anxiety really results from this kind of double mindedness. The commands to refrain from anxiety, or preoccupation with food, drink, clothing and the other material needs of life, follow from serving and loving God fully.
To these exhortations, the Lord adds more motivating factors, the first of which is the insight that life itself means more than food, and the body more than clothes. Here is where Thanksgiving Day and the command to be thankful find one of their deepest motives. The very fact that we are alive, and that we have bodies and souls is more meaningful than the food we eat, or the clothes we wear. Therefore, wherever we stand in the spectrum ranging from poverty to prosperity, we can and should be thankful for all that we are and all that we have.
Another insight that the Lord calls to witness against anxiety, is the fact that our heavenly Father feeds the birds, which do not engage in any agricultural work to earn a living (Matthew 6:26). Since human beings are much greater than birds, God their heavenly Father will all the more certainly provide for their needs.
Added to these things is God our heavenly Father’s infinite wisdom and capacity to provide for us and take care of us, compared to a man’s own inability even to make himself taller, or to add a year to his own life (Matthew 6:27). This example demonstrated the futility of worry, fear and anxiety about aspects of our lives in the face of God’s infinite love and capability to care for us.
Anxiety about clothing is useless, since the way God clothes “the lilies of the field” reflects an excellence not found in the resplendent robes of King Solomon (Matthew 6:28-29). Since God provides such beautiful colors and textures for the wildflowers, how much more will he provide clothes for the followers of his Son!
Not only will God provide food and clothing, but also, he already knows in advance that we need these things (Matthew 6:32), and because he knows this, we have all the less reason to worry or be anxious.
IN VIEW OF ALL THIS, WHAT ARE WE TO DO?
Having provided all these reasons not to be anxious about material things, the Lord Jesus commands his disciples to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness; then all these things will be added to them (Matthew 6:33). The priority in the Christian life must always be God, that is, his kingdom, his rule and his righteousness.
Since God provides for the needs of his people, and anxiety achieves nothing, but is only proof of our lack of faith in God, we must turn wholeheartedly to God and love him most who provides best, and in all we do, obey him and seek first his kingdom and righteousness.
The second thing we must always do is thank him continually whatever happens, and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, showing him gratitude for all the gifts and provision we have received at his hands, for to do so is to obey his word (1 Thess. 5:18; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:4 & 6), and to show that we trust in him.