Do not be Anxious for nothing
In her sermon, Rev. Christine Nakyeyune ( Uganda) reflects on the many complaints by the Israelites as they undertook a long journey to the promised land. She writes, "In times of financial dilemma, and health dilemma, unpleasant relationships, anxiety and worrying will not grant you an inch of solution. Present your matter to the Lord and leave it there". She exhorts us to entrust ourselves to the goodness of the Lord and trust him to find a way out.
Exodus 16: 2-15; Psalm 105: 1-6, 37-45; Philippians 1: 21-30; Matthew 20: 1-16
Our theme for today is, “do not be anxious”. The fuller theme would be, do not be anxious about anything. In the Exodus lesson that we read, the Israelites complained about Moses and Aaron, and the complaint was that there was no meat to eat. They murmured all day long. Sometimes putting in crying tones. They decried ever having left Egypt. They wished that the Lord had killed them in Egypt. They lied to themselves that back in Egypt they were better off as they sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread they wanted. Then they pointed a finger at Moses and Aaron and said: But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.
WOW! That must have pinched Moses and Aaron to the heart. The whole crowd, as many as two million people speaking words like those, and Moses and Aaron hearing them from all corners. Moses and Aaron must have felt so bad and exclaimed, what do we do?
The Israelites at this stage, were still very immature. They did not really know God personally. They had heard about Him in folklore as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but they did not have personal knowledge of Him. They had just come from slavery, a slavery of four hundred years, where they had been treated as beasts of burden.
Lots of work, little food, little rest, show of raw power by the Egyptian military and rough treatment. That is how they lived in Egypt. In that environment of agitation and uprising and survival for the fittest, everyone for himself or herself. That is how they lived. That is the only life they knew. And they attempted to follow God without transplanting their former paradigm of thinking what life was, what really constituted life. So in their immaturity, they employed the Egypt tactics, complaining, bickering, and expression of extreme deprivation.
Moses and Aaron, were a long way on the maturity road, far ahead of the people they led. Indeed, they must have felt the pain of the people complaining, but Moses and Aaron had an out, the Lord Himself. So the two arranged a prayer meeting (my words), in which they would go with the entire crowd before the Lord. By the way (I should mention to you that this was the second complaint and it was about food or meat.) (1)
The first complaint was about the absence of water towards the end of chapter 15 of Exodus. Now in the prayer meeting before the Lord, God brings along birds called quail, which flew very low and covered the entire camp and also in the morning when there was still dew on the ground, the whole place was covered by a substance that people did not know what it was.
So the people asked themselves, man-who meaning, ‘what is it?’ I do not know the proper pronunciation but it could be maanu. So God provided them that substance as food as well as the birds, the quail. But when we go further in the book of Exodus it was not long before they complained again, (3) third complaint. Whenever they were faced with uncertainty, their method of facing uncertainty was complaining.
In the Gospel, the Lord tells the parable of a rich man who owned a vineyard. The rich man sent workers into his vineyard but at different times. The work day started at 6am so he went to a labor ready place and found some men and hired them to work in his vineyard at an agreed amount of pay. Then at 9am he was passing through the marketplace and saw some men loitering around. He told them also to go and work in his vineyard and that he would pay them something.
The same thing happened at noon and at 3pm, he sent men in the vineyard and promised to pay them something. And at 5pm he did the same thing. He found some men loitering around and hired them and promised to pay them something. A usual work day ended at 6pm. It was twelve hours long. So the first ones to be hired had worked for 12 hours, the next ones worked 9 hours, the next ones worked 6 hours, the next ones worked 3 hours, and the last ones worked only one hour.
Please note that the first ones to be hired were contracted to work at an agreed pay, possibly there was even a bargain, I will pay you this much, oh no this much etc. But all the others, those who went at 9, 12, 3 and at 5 had not decided on an agreed amount of pay. They entrusted themselves entirely on the kindness, goodwill, and matured-ness of the boss. When the time for paying came, the treasurer started with the last ones who came at 5pm and paid them the full 12 hour day salary exactly the same as the first ones 6am had bargained to get.
He paid the same amount to those who came at 9am, 12pm, and 3pm. Then came those who started work at 6am, they reasoned within themselves, if he gave that much to those people who worked a few hours, surely he is going to pay us more because we worked longer in the vineyard. But to their chagrin, he paid them exactly the same amount as the rest. And true to unregenerate humanity, they rose up in arms and raised a complaint: how can you pay us who worked a full day the same as those who only worked part of the day. But the owner stood up to them and wondered loudly why they would fault him for being generous to the others. He reasoned that he had not cheated these ones who had worked the whole day, he had paid them as agreed. He reasoned that he was not unfair.
A message for us
Dear people of God, anxiety incited the Israelites of Exodus 16 to complain and the first hires of Matthew 20 to complain. Moses shows us a way out whenever we are faced with anxiety: present your matter to the Lord and leave it there. Entrust yourself to the goodness of the Lord trusting that in His magnanimity the Lord will find a way out for you. In the Philippians passage, Paul gives us a picture of a person contented in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let u teach ourselves to take life as it is, not as we would like it to be. Accept people as they are and relate to them as a person who has been redeemed by Jesus. Do not wait for them to be pure and holy, and all straight before you can be good to them. When I say people, I mean spouses, our children, friends, neighbors, workmates and all human beings. Unleash the best-you to them irrespective of who they are.
In times of financial dilemma, health dilemma and unpleasant relationships, anxiety and worrying will not grant you an inch of solution. Present your matter to the Lord and leave it there.
Do not allow anxiety, complaint to define you and to be the overall attitude by which you treat people and difficult situations in your life. I am sending you dear friends in the name of Jesus to be a friend of human beings, the good and the best, and the bad and the worst.
Do not be anxious.
The Rev. Christine Nakyeyune-Busuulwa is an Anglican priest, ordained in the Anglican Diocese of Mityana, Uganda
Photo by Road Trip with Raj on Unsplash