The prophet Hosea speaks to us right now, warning us about our love of money.
They made kings, but not through me.
They set up princes, but without my knowledge.
With their silver and gold they made idols
for their own destruction. (RSV)
This could be read as literally making idols – of melting down the silver and gold to reshape them into sculptures to worship. But I think it is deeper than that, and more immediate. What if it is about worshiping silver and gold themselves, about thinking that money will keep us safe?
When we think that our pension plan, our savings, our get-rich-quick schemes will save us, we are putting our faith in money and not in God. We are saying that we are in charge by all of our money-gaining efforts. But we forget that the bank can default on its loans, an economic depression could happen, embezzlement – anything.
Our house could be leveled by a tornado and we’d lose all the money we’d sewn into the mattress. It would go flying away with all the other debris of our lives. Our treasure would turn into trash in an instant.
Jesus knew about this verse. He often quoted from Hosea. He referred to his own resurrection with this previous verse –
2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will raise us up,
that we may live before him. (RSV)
He referred to this next verse often to try to teach people what really matters isn’t following the rules but following God.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. (RSV)
So what does Jesus say about the worship of silver and gold as idols? Jesus is all about not worrying. Of course, don’t worry about money. Don’t worry about your future. But further – don’t worry about anything. Worry can make you sick.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his span of life?28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O men of little faith?31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day. (RSV)
This doesn’t mean that we should think that the future is going to be perfect. It doesn’t mean that all followers of God will have wonderful houses and perfect health. What it means is that we don’t need to worry about it – whatever happens is whatever needs to happen. It is when we struggle against God that we get hurt.
The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:28
28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. (RSV)
Hear that? God works for good.
So what do we do? How do we know how to act? Jesus was asked that very question by a lawyer – someone who was all about following rules. This is in Matthew 22:36-40
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (RSV)
Part of loving God is trusting that God has it all under control. Part of loving your neighbor is serving. Part of both is not worrying about it. I don’t mean don’t worry in the sense of don’t do anything about it, or forget about it. But don’t stress over it. God is in charge. Let God rule your life instead of you trying to.