I had an awesome blog post that I was going to get up and write this morning. It was going to make you laugh. Then it was going to make you cry a little bit. Then it was going to make you think.
But then I go and read a passage in Celebration of Discipline and it just rocked me to the core. Richard Foster is talking about incorporating simplicity in our lives without falling prey to the pitfalls of legalism. He reminds his readers of Jesus’ words to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33 NIV). I was completely tracking with him, thinking “Yeah. I got this.”
But then he goes on. Don’t you hate it when authors “go on”? They unpack a subject to the point we agree with, and then they “go on” into uncharted waters, challenging the beliefs we hold onto so dearly. In this case, Foster references a passage in Kierkegaard’s Christian Discourses, pondering what effort could be made to “seek the kingdom of God”.
Should a person get a suitable job in order to exert a virtuous influence? [Kierkegaard’s] answer: No. We must first seek God’s kingdom. Then should we give away all our money to feed the poor? Again, the answer: no, we must first seek God’s kingdom. Well then perhaps we are to go out and preach this truth to the world that people are to seek first God’s kingdom? Once again, the answer is a resounding: no, we are to first seek the kingdom of God. Kierkegaard concludes: ‘Then in a certain sense it is nothing I shall do. Yes, certainly, in a certain sense it is nothing, become nothing before God, learn to keep silent; in this silence is the beginning, which is, first to seek God’s kingdom.’ ~ Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline , p. 86-87
Something I’ve been struggling with, and I’m sure I’m not the only one, is “all these things”. When I let my mind go, I get all worried about the future, about how I’m going to provide for my family in a few years when I’m a washed up musician. I get worried about the decisions I’ve made, including a mortgage that I am supposed to pay whether I have a gig or not. And if I let it get too out of hand, I will start getting freaked out about my hands, of all things. What if I’m doing the dishes and cut a ligament in my hand and can’t play guitar anymore?
I think a lot of Bible passages get misquoted. I don’t think this is one of them. Rather than misquoting it, I think we fail to understand the spirit of what Jesus was saying. We focus on “all these things” and make our faith into an if/then game of “If I seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, then all these things will be added.” There’s a whole lot of guilt wrapped up in that one, isn’t there?
Another passage I think we have thoroughly missed the boat on is Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Again, we make it an if/then: “If we delight ourselves in the Lord, then he will give us the desires of our heart.” While this may not have the guilt of the previous passage, it hints at something even more dangerous. The tendency here is to think of God as some kind of “vending machine”, as I’ve heard Chip Ingram call it. I have fallen prey to this if/then, vending machine kind of thinking many times in my life. I think that if I am obedient to God and seek him out, making him the delight of my heart, then everything in my life is going to go my way. Then when life gets difficult, as it tends to do, I put the blame on God. Not good.
The cure for this if/then thinking? Put first things first. In both of these statements, rather than an if/then, God is saying “You do this thing. Focus on it and don’t worry about the rest. Trust me. I’ve got this.” God knows our hearts. He knows we have a lot of things we are worried about. He is saying to seek Him first and all he will take care of all of the things we are worried about. In Psalm 37:4 He is saying “Delight yourself in me. Don’t worry about the rest. I’ve got it.”
Rather than focusing on if/then, we need to put first things first. That’s our job. We can trust God with the rest. He has proven himself faithful, time and time again. Seek first God’s kingdom. All of these things will be given to us, not in the sense that all our worldly pleasures will be met, but that God will take care of all of the things we are worried about. Delight yourself in the Lord. Over time he will change us to the the point where the desires of our heart line up with the desires of God’s heart.
First things first.
Does this idea resonate with you? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment below!
* I don’t really have any archives. I blew up my old blog and built this one on the same site. But I saved all the old stuff just in case…