31 Dec — 6 Jan 2008

Issue No. 1            

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

 

Certainly, this is one of the best known verses in the Bible and many people can even recite it by heart. As we enter Year 2008 I hope a meditation on this very important instruction by Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:33 would be a helpful signpost for the whole year. For it is one thing to know it by heart and entirely another thing to live by the same truth!  

 

We need to remember that this instruction does not come to us as a free-floating statement of Jesus, but as part of its immediate context (Mat 6:25-34 where Jesus is talking about anxiety. His teaching here is not too difficult to understand. As a good teacher he uses examples from everyday life (e.g., the birds of the air; the lilies in the field) to put across his point. He urges the disciples not to worry about anything because their “heavenly Father” knows that they need all these things. Then finally, he gives the instruction: “Seek first his [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness.” It comes as the climactic and concluding statement to the whole passage. 

 

Now then, what do you think it means to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness in our lives? I believe that what our Lord Jesus is trying to say can be uncovered in two layers.

 

Firstly, Jesus is simply saying: “Trust in me and in your heavenly Father.” Keep trusting in your heavenly Father whatever circumstances you are now in, whether good or bad. Jesus in urging his disciples not to be anxious about anything is not reprimanding them for being anxious. Rather, he is addressing the problem of their lack of faith in their heavenly Father. He knows that anxiety is poisonous to our spiritual life. It blurs our spiritual eyesight and prevents us from seeing God’s hand in our lives. Jesus sees our lack of faith as the main cause of all our anxieties. Look at  v. 30: “O you of little faith!” In v.33 Jesus gives us an antidote against all our anxieties. We can’t get this medicine from our GPs or any pharmacy elsewhere; it is only available from Him.

 

Our lives are full of uncertainty as we face difficulties sometime or another.  We are like a man crossing a vast ocean in a small boat. There are times when the sailing is smooth and easy with favorable winds and calm waters, but there are times when strong winds and torrential rains come and we eventually end up in a situation almost impossible to handle. Sometimes it can seem like you are standing on the very edge of a cliff or facing a dead end or a huge wall. We call this ‘being stuck between a rock and a hard place.’ Even in such moments he wants us to trust in our heavenly Father.

 

Now, this antidote comes with two very important ingredients. That’s why Jesus didn’t simply say “Trust in your heavenly Father,” but “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” Now we turn to uncover the second layer (the deeper meaning). Here Jesus is reminding the disciples of their true identity: who they are and who they belong to (the first ingredient). Jesus is addressing the problem of our identity crisis. So he uses the term “your heavenly Father” repeatedly to remind us that it is to him and his kingdom we belong, even though we live in this world (cf. John 17:16). So “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.” Jesus wants us to be different from Gentiles or non-believers. From the very moment we commit our lives to Jesus, we are given a new identity and we become God’s children. We come under his protection and he cares for us. We are not just mere individuals randomly placed in this part of the world trying to survive alone by ourselves. If you think so, you need this medication.

 

Imagine that you are the son of a multimillionaire. Would you be worried about whether you will have enough money to feed yourself till the end of the month or whether you will have a place to live next year? Jesus says elsewhere, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Mt 7:9-11). Christmas reminds us that God sent his only beloved Son to this world to save you and me and to give us eternal life. So it is not a matter of how much we have, but who we are, and it is not a matter of our sight, but our faith, how fully we trust in our heavenly Father.

 

Even if you were a billionaire, can your money protect you from all difficulties, trials and uncertainties? The world tempts us to live like anybody else. Commercial advertisements and insurance policies for every imaginable catastrophe try to convince us that we need all these things, and that we are able to protect ourselves from all kinds of uncertainties. But, that’s what Satan whispers into our ears. I’m not against you being rich; nor am I against insurance companies. I’m just trying to describe the world we live in and how we are prone to lose our sight of God and our faith in him as we live in this world.

 

Finally, we need to understand the true character of v.33. Grammatically speaking, it comes in the imperative mode, as a command for us to obey. But to see it as a mere command is to fail to understand its full significance. I discovered a valuable insight when I realized that it is Satan who makes us perceive it as a command to be obeyed merely out of duty as Christians. In fact, this command comes as God’s message with tremendous blessings in disguise. We can only experience God’s blessings when we follow his instructions willingly and with thanksgiving in our hearts. Let me give you an example. If you were a diabetic you would need to control your diet (eating a limited amount of food at each meal and abstaining from sugary snacks) and exercise regularly. It requires a lot of effort and discipline on your part. For some people, controlling their  diet and exercising everyday can be a tremendous burden but for others it can be a great way of enjoying a much healthier lifestyle. So it is really a matter of how you see things. Whether you see this command as duty or as blessing is up to us. But I can guarantee that the result will be totally different.

 

“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” is not to put us under the burden of obedience but a warm invitation of Jesus for us to enjoy his blessings fully in Christ (the second ingredient). To seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, thus, is to fully experience the rule of God and his blessings in our hearts and to make the kingdom the center of our existence in Christ. May the Lord help us to remember his Word in throughout the new year!

Dr Aquila Lee: A Warm Invitation from Jesus in Year 2008

31 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088454   Tel: 62276815   Fax: 62276816   Email: bgst@pacific.net.sg

 

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