Seek ye first the kingdom of God

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Matthew 6:25-34

Some people are good at multi-tasking.  No-one is good at multi-seeking.

Jesus has been teaching us that we have only one heart.  And our hearts attend to what we treasure.  Essentially we can treasure God or we can treasure the things of this world, mammon.

To invest in earthly treasure is the way of worry.  But, as the lilies themselves testify, care-free abandonment to God is the true path to peace.

At this point our flesh rises up and cries out, “We can’t survive on prayer and good intentions!  How will our daily needs be provided?”  To this Jesus responds:

“Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”  (Matthew 6:31-33)

Our Father has not forgotten our needs.  And He does not despise our needs.  As Father He provides.  But that’s how it has to be.  Godless folk seek things.  Jesus’ people seek God.  And therefore they appreciate “all these things” for what they are – gifts.

The atmosphere of a “Gentile” life is toil.  Everything is their own doing. All that they have is because they have sought it.  The atmosphere of a Christian’s life is grace.  “All these things” are enjoyed as a gift.  And of course God’s kingdom and righteousness are also gifts, as Jesus has made clear in the beatitudes.

The Gentile seeks to earn their essentials while they lack the one true Necessity.  The Christian seeks the grace which is already theirs, and even more is given.

CS Lewis was always speaking on this topic.  And I can’t say it better than him:

“Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.  It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters.  Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you.  You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more – food, games, work, fun, open air.  In the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object.  We must learn to want something else even more.”  – Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1960) p.118-9.

“The woman who makes a dog the centre of her life loses, in the end, not only her human usefulness and dignity but even the proper pleasure of dog-keeping.  The man who makes alcohol his chief good loses not only his job but his palate and all power of enjoying the earlier (and only pleasurable) levels of intoxication.  It is a glorious thing to feel for a moment or two that the whole meaning of the universe is summed up in one woman—glorious so long as other duties and pleasures keep tearing you away from her.  But clear the decks and so arrange your life (it is sometimes feasible) that you will have nothing to do but contemplate her, and what happens?

Of course this law has been discovered before, but it will stand re-discovery.  It may be stated as follows:  every preference of a small good to a great, or partial good to a total good, involves the loss of the small or partial good for which the sacrifice is made. . . You can’t get second things by putting them first.  You get second things only by putting first things first.”  – C.S. Lewis, “First and Second Things,” in God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Eerdmans, 1994), p. 280.

“Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things. We never get, say, even the sensual pleasure of food at its best when we are being greedy.”  – A letter to Dom Bede Griffiths (April 23, 1951)

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