MATTHEW 6:33f (part one)
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 6:33f (part one) “. . .and all these things shall be added unto you.”
“All these things” points back to verses 31-32. Prechristians are obsessed with “these things”–food, drink, clothing. To exist, we need these items, but the best things in life are not things. We who have been victimized by thieves can appreciate the spirit of Matthew Henry, who when he was robbed wrote in his diary,
Lord, I thank you that I have never been robbed before;
that although they took my money, they spared my life;
that although they took everything, it wasn’t very much;
that it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.
We need to keep things in proper balance. Earthly goods are secondary to heavenly ones, the spiritual outweighs the physical, and yet we are not to renounce stuff altogether. James Hudson Taylor, passing through inland China where the story of Jesus had never been told, was once taken to see “a holy man.” A Buddhist monk had built around himself a small building containing neither doors nor windows. The only opening was a hole barely big enough for a hand to pass food to him. Voluntarily incarcerated, he never bathed, and sat in his own filth, spending all his time chanting prayers. Biblical Christianity disavows such silliness.
Seeking God’s kingdom “first” implies there is a second. Making the kingdom supreme implies a subordinate. After we become Christians, we still need food and clothing. Our physical needs do not end. We are not to renounce effort and labor at making a living. We just aren’t supposed to use precious brain cells to be anxious about it. Avoiding distrust, not industry, we set aside worry, not work.
It is okay to seek earthly things, but only secondarily, “as a minor consequence of the pursuit of a higher aim” (Broadus). The perspective we need is well conveyed in an object lesson often used in grief recovery ministries. After losing a loved one, grieving family members are not expected to forget the deceased, but do need to gradually come to the point where they think less and less often about the departed loved one. To teach this truth, some grief counsellors use a picture puzzle. When the grieving ones put the puzzle together, they find a large piece has been left out in the very center of the puzzle. This huge omission in the middle of the puzzle makes the hole very conspicuous. It stands out and predominates the whole picture. The next time they put the puzzle together, a piece is again left out, but this time it is not a large center piece, but a smaller one down near a lower corner. A piece is still missing, but since it is smaller and away from the center, it is less obtrusive. The lesson is clear–we need to move the missing loved one from being the overwhelming obsession in the middle of all our thoughts to being one remembered and cherished, yet whose absence does not end our lives.
This object lesson can apply to stuff, to things. They matter, but belong on the periphery of our thoughts, not in the obsessive middle. At the center of our being there must be an overwhelming obsession with God’s kingdom. As we put that first, the promise is clear, all these other things shall be added unto us.
If we will take care of God’s interests, He will take care of ours, a truth pictured by an incident taken from the monarchs of England, who have long been one of the world’s richest families. Queen Elizabeth once asked a gifted merchant to travel abroad for her to handle matters of state. When he hesitated, saying his own business would suffer, the Queen replied, “Sir, if you will mind my business, I will mind your business.” Similarly, God honors those who honor Him (1 SM 2:30).
As we look out for God, He looks out for us. When we focus time and effort on the spiritual level, God Himself cares for us on the physical level.
As we seek God, He meets our spiritual needs up front, and then throws in material things as a bonus, as when a salesman throws in extras “over and above” to please a customer. When we buy burger and fries to go, a good manager throws napkins, salt, and ketchup in the sack free of charge. Earthly things are little extras God throws in free with His bargains. They trail along behind as retinue.
This does not mean we will all get rich. Our text is no promise of extravagances. God has a better currency than cash. This having been said, though, we have to admit that many Puritans and Quakers were among the wealthiest people in 17th century England. This was due not to hoarding or worshiping wealth, but rather, since they were living for God and His righteousness, they did not throw away money on worthless things. They became rich almost by accident. Some of the wealthiest people I have ever known are people who did not necessarily make much, but who spent little. People who spend all they make are living a life out of control. Seeking God’s kingdom “first” enables us to be content with much less.
The best way to enjoy this world is to focus first on another world. “Godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 TM 4:8b NAS). Seek God’s kingdom “first” and then leave to God the arranging of our money matters. Don’t chase money, chase a godly life, and then let God in His infinite wisdom determine our financial status.
Our role is to work hard, be honest, tithe, live within our means, and leave results to God. We need to give ourselves to increasing the size of His kingdom, and let Him determine the size of our bank accounts. We need to pursue righteousness, trusting God to be righteous in His handling of our personal finances.
”Many a man might have soared into the clouds of folly if his wings had not been clipped by adversity,” said Spurgeon, “I have seen heroes drivel under the influence of luxury. Many are the creatures of circumstances, and make but poor creatures when their circumstances allow of self-indulgence. We do not know what is best for us. It is sometimes very much better for us to suffer loss and disappointment than to obtain gain and prosperity.” Spurgeon illustrated these words with the story of a saintly Pastor Gilpin who was arrested to be brought to London to be tried for preaching the Gospel. On the way he fell from his horse and broke his leg. His captors ridiculed him for saying, “Everything is for the best. I have no doubt but that even this painful accident will prove to be a blessing.” Due to his broken leg, he could not travel as quickly, and thus his arrival in London was delayed several days. Approaching the city, they heard bells merrily ringing, and were told, “Queen Mary is dead, and there will be no more burnings of Protestants.” Gilpin told his humbled tormenters, “Ah! You see it is all for the best.”
Let’s not be angry at our station in life. Trust God. Do not lust for money. Through the ages, wealth has helped thousands, but ruined millions. We must believe God is granting the exact amount of money He deems us capable of handling well. “Give me neither poverty nor riches,” Agur prayed, “Feed me with the food that is my portion, Lest I be full and deny Thee and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or lest I be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God” (PR 30:8b-9 NAS).
When our work for God is done, our sustenance will end. Remember John the Baptist. But till our purposes in God’s kingdom are fulfilled, He will provide.