Monday, September 07, 2015

Luther's Notes on the Sunday Gospel: Trinity 15 - Contentment


Contentment: The Lilies of the Field

Matthew 6:24-34
New King James Version
24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Luther's Explanatory Notes:

24 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 Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Ye cannot serve God and mammon. What is meant by serving God ? Above all things it means, Hear Christ and accept the Gospel. That is the only proper way in which we can serve God ; for here his command stands clearly before our eyes. Ac cording to this, God commands children to honor father and mother, and parents to nourish and bring up their children.

It may be regarded as a small thing, when a servant girl in the house washes, cooks, sweeps and does other housework; but because this is God's command, her menial work can not be regarded otherwise than the service of God, which far excels all the sanctity and self-denial of the monks and nuns.

But what is meant by " serving mammon," is explained by the Lord himself in verse 25.

Everyone, when asked whether he loves God, will say, Yes, I love Him! Do you regard me as such a desperate man, as to be an enemy to God ? But according to this text it is impossible for him who loves money and riches and "holds" to them, not to hate God.

Hold. Here he does not plainly say he will love the one, but shows the actions and works of love by the word "hold."

Serve. All depends here on the little word "serve." It is no sin to possess gold and goods, wife and children, house and land. He that serves is a servant and does not possess the goods, but the goods possess him. But the service should be rendered from love, otherwise it is no service. Deuteronomy 10:12; 13:4.

Other sins are thus committed, that man makes use of the creature, but mammon lies still and only wants to be served.
25 Therefore I say unto you, 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. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 
Take no thought for your life. Here you learn what it is to serve mammon ; namely, to care only for the life of our body. The care does not inhere in the raiment or in the food, but in the heart. For I have no care for that which the heart does not love.

And yet St. Paul says we shall be careful. (Romans 12:8; Philippians 2:20.) Christ does not here speak of official care, but of avarice.

Let every one in his station attend to his duties, and do what is commanded him, and let the Lord God care and give as he pleases. God will care; we should work.

Can and must ye entrust God with your life and soul? Why then should ye be such fools as not to trust him with the necessaries of life?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
 Behold the fowls of the air. Here the birds fly before our eyes, and they render a small honor to us, so that we might well take off our hats to them, and say, My dear Sir Doc tor, I must confess that I do not understand the art that you practice.

In the first chapter of the book of Genesis (Gen. 1:28) we are commanded to have dominion over all creatures, and we disgrace ourselves so much that the weakest sparrow in the Gospel must stand as the doctor and teacher of the wisest man!

More than they. This is God's order ever and anon, that wherever he gives life, he also provides that we can sustain it. When therefore he does this to the brutes, will he not much more do it for men, especially his Christians?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
Which of you by taking thought. It would be a very foolish thing if a little man should sit in a corner, and there all his life-long think and care how he could become bigger.

If the blessing of God is here, we have it ; but if the blessing is not here, although we have it, yet we will not be able to enjoy it.
28 And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Why take ye thought for raiment? If it were not God's special order and creation, it could never be possible that one man should be so like unto the other.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith ? 
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass. And if we could adorn a rose with satin, it would say, I would rather that the Master in heaven above should adorn me.
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gen tiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

After these things do the Gentiles seek. Here you see a picture of the world, what kind of a thing it is ; namely, the great mighty multitude, (except a few Christians) who, as soon as they are grown up, turn entirely away from God, and serve the lying god mammon.

The Gentiles, who do not know or believe that they have a Father in heaven. — He has known long ago what he should give you, and has taken care of you before you thought of it yourselves, or felt your need.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 
Seek first the kingdom of God. This is the principal doctrine in this sermon, and supplies the right rule and power how we shall observe the proper order, that we may have both the divine or eternal benefit, and also be supplied with our bodily necessities.

The kingdom consists herein, that we believe on Christ, who is the supreme head and King in this kingdom, in and through whom we have all things.

Seek. That is, believe on Christ, and exercise yourselves in the gospel, and practice its precepts, by preaching, hearing, singing and reading, that your faith may continually grow stronger, and become manifest by fruits or good works.

Righteousness. This is a different kind of righteousness from that which is in the world, and is designated as that righteousness which springs from faith, and is engaged and active in good works.

Seek, as those who have not yet attained, or entirely learned it, or lived it perfectly.

All things added unto you. There could be no more bread on earth, nor any more rain fall from heaven, if a Christian should have to die of hunger; yea, God himself must first have died of hunger.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. 
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. As we say, Time will show, (Kommt Tag, so kommt auch Rath.) Our care does no good at any rate; but he whom God favors and gives prosperity can often accomplish more in one hour without trouble and care, than another can accomplish in four whole days with great trouble and anxiety.

Evil. By evil he means that which is imposed upon us, to sustain our selves by the sweat of our face (Genesis 3:19) and such other occasional calamities. Such troubles endure and accept with joy, and be satisfied; for therewith hast thou enough to endure, and leave off troubling, whereby thou makest the misfortune only greater and heavier, than it really is.


Luther's Explanatory Notes on the Gospels, pp. 40-42.

Text Criticism News

Ancient History and Archaeology