KINGDOM: The clarifying priority (Matthew 6:33)
There’s an unpredictable and often disheartening up and down, back and forth cycle to life on this spinning blue ball we call earth.
We experience times of blessing and grace that blow our minds and explode our hearts with gratitude (these could be the “up” or “forth” times), followed by losses and griefs that have us stammering for words sufficient to describe them (these could be the “down” or “back” times).
And strangely enough, there are times when these seeming opposites are somehow mixed.
The anxiety, fear, and stress caused by the unpredictabile nature of it all is enough to drive anyone to despair.
Jesus wasn’t a pious, out-of-touch-from-real-life sort of spiritual teacher. He addressed this anxiety-producing aspect of human life head-on, and He did so with the precision of a spiritual surgeon, first identifying the cancer, then cutting deeply to remove it from our souls.
But unlike a surgery, we don’t lie passively oblivious while He does all the work. He requires us to take part in removing the spiritual cancer He’s located, one painful incision at a time, and to endure the pain of ongoing spiritual therapy (So to speak… similar to the pain of ongoing physical therapy. If you’ve never experienced THAT, consider yourself blessed) to realize experience the complete healing over time.
It hurts. Lots of hurt.
The first pain we feel on the way to healing is the initial diagnosis… and Jesus is not shy about pronouncing it. “O you of little faith…” (Matthew 6:30).
Jesus makes that statement in the context of the passage before us, in our ongoing study of the Kingdom of Heaven/God as mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew.
It’s not surprising to me that Jesus need point out a manifestation of the spiritual cancer we battle as fallen human beings in order to help us see and understand the Kingdom clearly.
So, let’s take our time to understand the broader scope of Jesus’ concern (for us) so that we can understand what He’s saying is true of the Kingdom.
25 Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will 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 a single hour 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 you 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 after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
ANXIETY DISTRACTS FROM THE KINGDOM
Three times in this short passage, Jesus directly says, “Do not be anxious” (vss. 25, 31, 34). One additional time He points out the futility of anxiety (vs. 27). His statements collude to diagnose our spiritual cancer: we don’t have sufficient faith in our heavenly Father (the end of vs. 30).
This lack of faith could be because we don’t know Him well enough. In other words, we don’t understand that He’s not only supremely able to care for us, but also that He wants to. You could say that in this case, we don’t recognize His “Father-ness” toward us. We don’t understand that like any good, earthly father, God wants to provide for His children’s basic needs, whatever they might be.
But there’s another possible diagnosis, one that is far more painful.
It’s like the life-long smoker who has been diagnosed with lung cancer. He’s always known that smoking could cause lung cancer, and before him is the biopsy result that proves it to be true. He is confronted not only with the existence of the deadly disease, but also with the undeniable reality that the presence of it in his body is his own fault.
In the same way, our lack of faith could also exist because we refuse to trust in what we intellectually know about God.
The only possible result of refusing to trust God is that we trust in ourselves. Anxiety is the natural result of that choice.
Because life is scary and we are easily scared. And we should be. We don’t have what it takes to handle the scary situations in life, and we know it.
Now that we see the reasons behind our anxiety (lack of faith in God), let’s step back until the bigger picture comes into focus…
- Don’t trust God (out of ignorance or stubbornness)
- We are consumed by anxiety
- Our focus is on us, not on the Kingdom of God
Anxiety glues our attention (and emotions) onto things God tells us He already has under control. When you think of it that way, it seems rather silly, doesn’t it?
SOLVING THE ANXIETY PROBLEM BY SEEKING THE KINGDOM
To help us solve our anxiety problem, Jesus says “Do not be anxious.” Why? Because the things you are anxious about are already being handled by your heavenly Father.” But from there, He doesn’t simply say, “Therefore, trust the Father.” His instruction takes a step further down the path than that, assuming that when you refuse to be anxious, you will be trusting the Father. So he tells us where to put our focus instead of back on the things that fall under the Father’s job desscription.
“Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (vs. 33)
Simply put, seeking the Kingdom of God AND the righteousness of God, IS trusting God with the other stuff.
Doing so instantly puts our focus where our focus should be as sons and daughters of the King. We are to be about His business, extending and expanding the family name.
THE “NOW” NATURE OF THE KINGDOM
An amazing fact that is often missed in this verse is that Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of heaven in terms of “here and now.” Look at it again, isn’t that what He’s doing?
(NOW) “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, and His righteousness.”
This means that as those who believe in Him, who follow Him and obey His teachings, the Kingdom is very much a “now” thing. We are in it. We are able to advance it. We are co-laborers with Jesus, the Apostle Paul, and any other redeemed-by-the-blood person who is about his/her Father’s business.
So it might be helpful to us presently-earth-bound humans to take our eyes off the “one day Jesus will return and set things right” perspectives (as true as they are) and instead, focus on what He’s called us to here and now.
We are to be ACTIVELY seeking things of the Kingdom in this life, in this lifetime, for the benefit and blessing of earthlings on planet earth. When we do so, all the basics we need to survive life on the fallen planet will be supplied by the One who called us INTO the Kingdom that is not of this world.
That is a great cure for anxiety. And it works.
- Where is your confidence when it comes to the things you need to live and make your way in this world?
- Is the anxiety you feel (to whatever degree) because you’re not understanding who your Father is, or because you refuse to believe who your Father is?
- What might happen to all that anxiety if you intentionally set it aside and get busy with Kingdom work?
Would you join me in this prayer?
Jesus, reveal to us where we have “little faith.” Show us how the anxieties we feel reveal the lack of trust we truly have. Enable us to place the things we need in Your capable hands and leave them there, and how to busy ourselves with the Kingdom work You’ve appointed us to do in this present world.
Kingdom Insights (cumulative list)
The Kingdom of heaven/God was long anticipated by the Jewish people (and others)
Entrance into the Kingdom requires repentance
The entrance of the Kingdom brought the Messiah and judgment
The Kingdom began with the advent of Jesus and continues growing, even today
The Kingdom of heaven is characterized by humility and righteousness
Those who enter the kingdom must do so by the righteousness of Jesus
Kingdom citizens are to be praying for the Kingdom to come and grow