Sunday, May 26, 2024

Seek Ye First...

In the previous passage, Jesus declares that serving both God and money is impossible, because you cannot love both. You cannot be devoted to both. Why? At some point, both occupants of your heart will demand what the other one will not be compatible with or agree to, and you will plunge into a kind of war with your heart and your conscience. 

Paul explicates this in no uncertain terms: "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God." (Romans 8:5-8)

But those of us in Christ have a different perspective, a different motivation: "For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." (Romans 8:14-16)

So we are either children of God, or children of the world. Our familial ties are expressed in how we act and what we believe. The world, represented by money, has its own values and will not tolerate sharing the stage with the Kingdom's values.

Think: How often have you wanted to do the right thing financially, but had divided loyalties between your love for God and the pressure and pleasure that debt and spending can bring?

  • You want to put even more debt on your credit card for a purchase but your church is conducting a fundraiser for an orphanage in Mexico and you are torn as to what to do.  You really want to make that purchase, but you know that outreach is important. 
  • You want to spend time with your kids but your wife is worried about money, so you go into work that day.
The list goes on and on. 

Jesus knows that we are ultimately at war with the things of God--hence, His teaching on the Kingdom of God. He wants us to know what life in the Kingdom looks like and how we should operate.

The values the Kingdom proffers are not the world's, pure and simple. The world is about self and a born-again heart is about God. 

Yes, we fail to uphold and live out those values quite often, but we know that.  The world goes about its business as if it's all about itself, and if people don't like it, too bad.  The world sees itself as progressive, hip and so aware of what's really important. 

But the world is deceived.

Jesus brought light and is Light to a world shrouded in darkness.  All too often the world thinks that darkness is the only quality life can have. 

So Jesus' teaching on this mountain is to reassert the values, the ways and the attitude of those who call on God.  A lot was lost under the cloak of "religion" and Jesus wanted to show His people that God was still standing by them and wanted far and away more for them that they could ever imagine. Isaiah 64:4 says, 

    Since ancient times no one has heard, 
        no ear has perceived,
        no eye has seen any God besides you,
        who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

So, Jesus moves from how money can turn into a very demanding master to, what I am sure the crowd is thinking, what seems like an impossible place to stand. 

OK, Rabbi Jesus.  You should be able to live on the very words of God.  We know His words are life, and we do not live by bread alone, but you must earn the money to buy the flour to bake the bread. That takes work.  Whatever money we do get goes to the Romans anyway.  So, really, even though we work hard, you wouldn't know it. The poor are everywhere and we see them, pity them, but we do not want to be them.  Yet, when we walk away from the tax collector's booth, we realize all too well, we are them. 

Now Jesus launches into quite a response to the question, "If we don't seek money, how will we live?  How will we eat?" in Matthew 6:25-34: 

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

You mean, Rabbi, even though we see how God takes care of His creation, we forget far too easily that  we are part of it?  A very important part?  Do You mean to say that we are just as important to Him as our children are to us?  What kind of father would not provide for his children?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them."

Wait a minute!  Are you saying, Rabbi, that we are  acting no differently from those who do not believe when we are frantic about how we are to get along in this world?  It's true, though.  Those pagans have to do all sorts of rituals to get their gods' attention and I get the impression they are afraid that if they don't do exactly what their priests tell them to do, or they don't do the ritual in just the right way, the gods will punish them. They live in fear of their gods. But we don't!  We are God's children!  Oh, I get it. We need to not just say we are His, we need to act like His. 

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:25-34)

Oh.  Wow. You have been saying all along, Rabbi, that this Kingdom of God (not the one we see around us with all of our buildings and religious practices) is about relationships.  If we make our relationship with the Father our deepest goal, our deepest pursuit, then He will bless us, sustain us and show us that He is all too aware of our needs. 

Wow.  This Kingdom of God teaching feels like a much lighter load than the one I am used to carrying. 


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