Matthew 6:28-34 (NIV)
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 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.
The fifth through seventh chapters of Matthew’s gospel continues to fascinate me. Every time I read it, I come away changed in some way. In this, Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount,” He tells us about how to live a good life, a blessed life. In his message, what is abundantly clear is that we often prioritize less important things above what’s most important. In many respects, his message says to us, “The life you are trying to live is not the life you want to live.” We all want similar things. We want to be deeply loved and deeply known. We want to be safe, and we want the ones we love safe. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. The critique, however, is the way we go about meeting our ultimate desires. Jesus makes it clear that the things we tend to trust in will not satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts. Ultimately, Jesus shows us that the way to a good life, a blessed life, is found in paradox.
If you want to be rich, be poor in spirit. In fact, storing up wealth on earth is much less important than storing treasure in heaven.
If you want to be comforted, then share in the grief of others. Mourn with those in mourning.
If you want to be filled, then be hungry—hunger for righteousness.
Worry, which is a concern for the future, doesn’t solve your problems or alleviate your fear today. The way to a good future is in the present.
The way to individual happiness is through community. By sharing in the suffering of others, acts of mercy, making peace, and fighting for justice, you will have a blessed life.
We tend to trust in our individual strength. We want to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, and we love to plan our future. There is a kind of security we feel in knowing what comes next and looking 10 steps down the road. The trouble with living in the future is that it inhibits you from being present in the present. For many of us, we laid out plans for the year, and we “knew” last summer what we would be doing this summer. Well, not one of us planned for a pandemic. We couldn’t see that coming. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that planning is wrong. It’s not, but Jesus reminds us that the way to a good life, a happy life, a blessed life is found in being concerned with God’s business. When we seek the kingdom, it shapes the way we build our lives. In short, put first things first. Make the kingdom your priority, and when the kingdom is your priority, your house will be in order. Don’t substitute or lose sight of what is most important. If you want to build a good life, build it on a foundation that can last. Seek first the kingdom, and the other stuff will come along.
What things in my life are currently pulling my attention?
Are the things to which I am giving my time and energy adding value to my life?
How am I doing? Have I shared that with God?
In what ways can I use my gifts or talents to improve my community? Where can I serve?
O Lord, my God, I confess that I am consumed with simple busyness more often than I should. In my attempts to build a good life, I frequently lose sight of the fact that You came to give me life—abundant life. I do need you, and I want to share my life with you and share in your life. Grant me the grace to love what you love, to see the world through your eyes. Help me to build, and not destroy; to love justice and transform injustice; to grieve with those that mourn, and to trust you where I trust only myself. Elevate my mind and heart to focus on what is most important. Help me to make first things first. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.