James 4:13-17/ Matthew 6:25-34
August 26, 2018/ Paxton
Are you living a balanced life? Is your life, in any shape or form a balanced life?
Before we unpack this question, let us state the obvious. Living a balanced life is a good thing. A balanced lifestyle is a desirable lifestyle. Going to extremes in almost anything usually leads to disaster. A balanced life is a good thing to have.
It is good to exercise. It is even better to have a balanced exercise program that gets to all of the muscles.
Financial experts will talk long and hard about the positive impact of having a balanced portfolio.
Likewise, we need to balance the demands on our time and energy. Experience teaches that saying “yes” to every request on our time can lead to frustration.
When two people enter into a relationship, when they have fallen in love they may have to eventually decide how to balance having time together with time apart.
With the beginning of the football season around the corner, there are many experts analyzing which of the 32 teams is more balanced, and thus have more of a chance to go to the Super Bowl
Being balanced is important.
It is forever fascinating how easy it is for us as Christians to live an out of balance Christian life.
Consider this. We all have our favorite Bible stories that seem to speak directly to the core of our lives. It is so tempting to latch on to those particular stories and to mine the spiritual lessons that they teach and to ignore those that appear more problematic.
Isn’t it true that we find certain teachings of Jesus to be more appealing than others, and so we harness our lives to those teachings and not to those other teachings of Jesus that seem more extreme? For instance, love everyone? It is Jesus’ teaching.
We definitely do this with the New Testament letters of the Apostle Paul. We may love his teachings on everyone being a part of the body of Christ, but then there are his teachings about marriage or even slavery that might make us squirm.
If we believe, as Presbyterians do, that studying the Bible helps us to live a Christian life then we need to be prayerfully serious about our study of scripture, rely on the leadership of the Holy Spirit, be mindful of the world around us and to be honest to say, we are not God. There is always more for us to learn.
A balanced Christian life is a humble Christian life.
Our two readings for this morning are good examples of this. They balance each other out. They help us to be balanced in our Christian walk.
Matthew 6:25-34 is a favorite for many of us here. It is for me, because I worry. I have the worry gene. If I am not careful I can be consumed by my anxieties. With that in mind, look at the title for this section of Matthew: it says, Do Not Worry. Sign me up.
Jesus seems to be saying, don’t worry about your life; what you should eat, drink or wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Then we have these wonderful words about considering the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Seek first the Kingdom of God and all these other things will be added unto you.
And verse 34? It should be stamped on the back of my hand so I can see it every day.
It is saying that we are loved by God. God loves you. It is important to be reminded of that in this harsh internet, twitter and tweet world. God is actively caring for your life. What he wants us to do is to seek out his will, to live for him. And what about the worries that we have? Give them to God.
I have preached that message for close to 40 years. I believe it. I love it.
I am not as fond of the other passage, though, that one from James. It is also a favorite, but not because it makes us feel warm, cozy and loved. It challenges us. It makes us uncomfortable. It is like a splash of cold water.
It is addressed to the businessman or businesswoman who has made plans to go to this or that town to work for a year and make money. The writer says, wait! You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring? Ouch. He’s right. The writer then wonders, what is your life? You are a mist, here for a little while and then gone.
Last week Cindy and I were at the Presbyterian Conference Center in Montreat, North Carolina – in the mountains in the western part of that state. Every morning we saw the mist in the mountains. And every day, without fail, the sun came along and burned it off.
Our lifetime on this planet is relatively brief. The Christian life must never be one of arrogance that assumes that we have all the time in the world, because we don’t. In the brief time that we do have, in this unknown length of time we should seek out the will of God and do what is right. If we don’t then verse 17 says we live in sin.
The birds. The sparrows. Remember the song, his eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me. Let go of your worries. You are loved by God.
But then there is this mist, the idea that we are a temporary and before you know it, we’re gone. So don’t waste time. Do what is right in God’s eyes and do it now.
Here’s the balance. We are loved and forgiven, not so that we might be lazy but to be busy at work in God’s name. God has forgiven our darkest and most shameful acts. We are loved. We need to hold on to that truth in our darkest and most lonely times. But be careful of arrogance. We are not God. And this time here, on this planet, it is over like a mist.
One day Linus tells his sister, “I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.” Well, Linus, that doesn’t work.
We are loved by God. Be sure of that. But be sure of something else. We are loved by God so that, in part, we might love others. And we don’t have much time left to do exactly that. Amen.