Kingdom First, God will Take Care of the Rest

Matthew 6:33-34

33Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

 

Seek God’s Kingdom, and God will take care of rest.

Is this promise for real? Do you believe him? Are you betting your life on this promise? Put God’s Kingdom agenda as my first priority, and don’t worry about the rent, the mortgage, the electric bills, the car payments, insurances, the child expenses, the college tuitions, the retirement package?

I have some issues with this.

It sounds too idealistic. It feels like a kite whose yarn is cut and floats away to the ethereal heaven far from the grounding reality of day to day existence.

Come on, take care of everything?

It sounds too good; too good that it sounds like a sales pitch. Buy this exercise pulley and you will lose your fat, meet prince charming, and live happily ever after, I mean look at that girls in the infomercial, she is happy!

-timeshare experience

For Christmas we took a little family break to Myrtle Beach. My children never got to see a musical, so we went looking for tickets. There was a booth that said discounted tickets so we went it. And they offered us tickets for all five of us to 2 shows at $80. I said, what’s the catch? They said, oh, just a 90 minute presentation of the vacation of your dreams. Timeshare? Yes. Ok.

As were driving in I said to my wife, smile, once they finish, don’t ask a question, just say “no.”

The 90 minutes turned out to be 3 hours. And I will be honest, they did know their stuff. Starting with videos of couples being interviewed who went in like us, committed to saying “no,” but making the leap, and now they are smiling and giving an interview, and their hair looks so good.

And then the women who did the live presentation, she nailed it. She said, “Your kids wont’ remember what Christmas gift you gave them. What they will remember is the memories spent together as a family. Remember when we went to the Caribbians? I am not selling you a vacation. I am offering life long memories.”

She was good.

I wanted to ask questions. Suyun kept me in check.

 

The woman presenting sounded she cared for the future of my family. But she doesn’t care. She doesn’t even know our names. She wants the commission.

Seek the Kingdom, and everything will be taken care of.

Is this just a sales pitch? Is Jesus for real?

Let’s start with the promise, “don’t worry, just put God’s agenda first, and God will take care of everything.”

I think if Jesus was saying this to people with job security, whose got good cash flow, then maybe this promise can be more palpable. You know, take our middle class security as God’s providence, and be really selective about God’s agenda in my life, then the promise is workable.

But Jesus is saying this promise to peasants, who actually don’t know if they will have bread tomorrow, whose next year depends on just the right amount of rain and sun.

It just sounds like the promise is exploiting the vulnerable. I mean, the poor should worry enough to work and get things so they can move out of poverty. But to oneswho have most worry, Jesus is telling them to stop think about those things, and think about God’s agenda first.

Shouldn’t he be teaching them farming, and then teach them about spiritual things?

When you life is falling apart, your loved one is dying, you lost a job, your children are failing, and your boss says, “Look, do what’s best for the company first, and I will take care of it.” You will think he is a jerk, and if you do it, it would only be because you are desparate.

We don’t trust this promise because frankly, we are not sure Christ really cares for our need.

Or maybe we are hearing it in the wrong tone. Maybe its not too idealistic, not a sales pitch, and not selfish of God to desire us to seek his will first.

Kingdom first because God cares for us and not his agenda.

Story of child worrying like adult

 

When I was doing children ministry in New York, a father of a third grader asked to see me about his son.

His son was kindest 3rd grader I had met. He wrote thank you notes to his parents and even to his older sister who kept telling him not to follow her after church.

I was curious but not worried.

The father met me at a Korean bakery store and said,

-Pastor, I am worried about my son. And he looked really worried.

-Is he doing something wrong?

-I don’t know if it’s wrong, maybe, maybe not.

-What exactly is he doing that worries you.

-He opens all our letters.

-Why?

-He wants to look at all our bills. He counts up all the numbers. And then he brings them to me and tells me that he is worried about our cash flow.

-Well, that is strange, but compared to what other kids do, it’s not that bad.

-I guess not. But the thing is, he is always worried. And I wish he would worry about what kids his age worry about. Games, making friends, girl crushes. Childhood comes around only once.

Then I understood the father. The father didn’t want his child to be burdened with adult anxieties, but to live freely as a child. Adult worries will come in due time.

This is the tone of this promise. It is not a sales pitch at all. It is the Father saying to us. I want you to live as children of the king, to be about what royal children should be doing, and let me worry about these other things in life.

Yes, God says, seek my kingdom first. But it is not because God is concerned about his agenda. God is concered about us, that we might waste our life in worry, that we might live in worry then die because of worry, and not have ever fully lived, the freedom that comes when one lives as child of the king doing the pleasures of the father-king.

Verse 33 doesn’t stand alone. It is followed by verse 34.

But I always heard them as separate sermons so I saw them as two unrelated points.

One point is that we have to live Kingdom-first, that is the only way life can go well.

And the other point is don’t worry. Just trust God. Worry is sin.

But both points are connected, like walls to foundation.

To not worry is to trust God but trusting God has a real shape, seeking God’s will first.

But it also means that God wants us to care for God’s stuff first because God doesn’t want us to live in worry.

God says Kingdom-first because to God we are his first-love.

Luke’s retelling of this promise brings this tone out, the fatherly desire to free us from worry so we can enjoy life.

 

Luke 12:22-30

22Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.31Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

 

Jesus wants us to seek God’s Kingdom because he wants us to be happy. Yes it makes God happy to see us happy. And God’s happiness is to give you the Kingdom. He wants his royal children to live as royal children. Not brats, because I know that is the word associated with royal children.  But children who know their privilege and enjoys it, its responsibilities and benefits.

The promise is offered to bless us.

Just as we wish the 3rd grader to enjoy his childhood, shouldn’t we listen to our Father so we can enjoy this one life we are given?

So hearing this promise in that loving tone, I want to explore four things about this promise.

First, God doesn’t want us to worry because worry is useless.

Jesus’ teaching is common sense. Worry can’t change our situation. We should understand our situation. We should analyze, converse, plan and execute, do what we can. Worry doesn’t mean don’t take responsibility. But worry is not responsibility. Worry is concerning ourselves over all the things that we cannot be responsible for to such an extent that it incapacitates you to what you are responsible for.

You have a test. You prepare. Then you go to sleep.

Worry is when you are wondering what you will get tomorrow so much that you can’t go to sleep. Worry didn’t make you smarter. Worry only gave you only 3 hours of sleep, so the next morning you are tired and you cannot perform as well as you prepared.

You are married. Worry is worrying whether you married the right one, and not recognizing that the one you married is the one you make the right one. Your worry then becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.

Worry doesn’t change the situation. It only makes it worse.

Secondly, worry comes from our inability to accept our limitations

Here is the irony about worry. Worry doesn’t change a thing, but the reason we worry is because we think we can change things. There are things we can change. But there are many things we cannot change. Worry assumes we can change a lot of things. Worry doesn’t know it’s human limits.

Let’s say we are sick and we can’t go to work. But we are worried that if we call in sick the boss will fire me.

But when we are sick, the only thing in my control is communicating it, and recovering. How my boss takes it is not in my control. We have this false belief that we can control the boss. That if we keep producing. But if the boss is such that he will punish any drop in productivity, then he will find another reason to fire you. Or the industry just goes through downturn because of national politics, and he is forced to cut. It is a false belief that I am in control over everything. We are not. We are very limited. We can’t even control our own body. I mean there are thousands of processes that’s happening in my body, and it all happens without my attention, and it will continue it’s way no matter what attention you give. You can control some of it. What you can control, you should. But you’ve got to be honest about your limits.

I got a call from my friend. He’s been calling all his friends because a cousin recently passed away. His cousin was a health freak, run 5 miles a day, healthy diet, few red meat, the whole family joked that the cousin would live to 100. The cousin died of heart attack at 45. No one saw that coming.

Now we begin to worry. Because we think well if we know enough, know more about our health system, know all the factors, then surely I can control. You can’t. You and I can’t know everything. And even if we know everything, all those things are not under my control.

The philosophy under worry is the belief that we can control our life and our world.

Third, this is why seeking God’s Kingdom is the only way to replace worry because it starts with the recognition that God is King.

This is the first thing about seeking God’s Kingdom. Not so much God’s agenda, but God’s nature. God is King. In one sense, this whole sermon on the mount, the whole of point of Matthew’s telling of Jesus is that God is King, and that the King has come, and his name is Jesus.

And those who live in recognition of Jesus as King, and not me, don’t’ have a safe life, but have a good life. They live free from worry even though they face trials. It is not that they never worry. But worry will not overwhelm them. They trust the King, and that is enough. The King will care for them, in this life, and even in death. Yes, even death is an acceptance that I am not King, and that my life has a limit. This is what it means to be human.

And we go back to the Christmas story, because we see Matthew telling us what this promise looks like in real life.

There was Mary and Joseph who came to accepted the baby given to them as King. And it came with lot of trouble. But they did not worry. They face challenges.

And there was Herod who didn’t want Jesus as king. He worried. He was so worried, he sent his henchmen to a small village to kill all the toddlers. But it didn’t do anything. He wanted to secure his kingdom, He died. His son got his throne and his son hated him. And his son also died.

We are not King. God is King. To live well. You have to recognize who is King.

God is King. I am not king. Now think about that. Is that selfish of God. Isn’t that a relief? Who is in charge of this world? Who is in charge of the nations? Who is in charge of my children? Who is in charge of my life? Ultimately. It is God. God is saying I will take responsibility. Obedience is really the corollary of giving God the burdens of the world. God is king. I am not.

I think this is why Mary and Joseph took up the responsibility of raising Jesus. Because though they are parents, ultimately they accepted that God took full responsibility.  

Fourthly, So how can I practically live for God’s Kingdom?

To seek God’s Kingdom is to live in a community where our values reflect God’s values.

And there is no other passage that teaches us more clearly and fully about God’s values than sermon on the mount.

Part of the reason we don’t see it is because we often get it piecemeal, like you are doing now.

But when you listen to it as a whole, you get the whole picture. You see that Christ is teaching his people what it means to live like children of God. What it means to live by God’s Kingdom value.

And it is not like the world. It starts from the Blessed are you who are poor for theirs is the Kingdom of God.

So here is one assignment for this week. Read the Sermon on the Mount in one sitting. Read it at least once. Better yet, read it every day at least once. Just try it. Don’t go with expectation. Will it hurt to do it? How much time will it take? Will it be wasted time? So try it.

Mohatma Ghandi,

Mohandas Gandhi read Sermon the Mount almost every morning. He wasn’t a Christian, but he was pulled by Jesus life and teaching, especially the sermon on the mount. For in it, he saw that greatest happiness for a human community. He saw that if we were to simply live by the values Jesus taught, there would be a robust peace.

He once said that if every Christian lived as Jesus taught, there would be no Hindus in India.

Now I don’t think reading sermon on the mount will take us all a saint Gandhi, but I think we could at least see the attraction of the Kingdom of God, how living by its values is good for us.

King’s Sermon

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Jr. day. It is not a day to just remember a single person, but to remember the civil rights movement, a movement of the church. It was Christians rising up and being Christians, living by Kingdom values, the sermon on the mount.

The poor rising up and saying we are blessed.

The marchers when being slapped, by a dog or a hose, standing up and giving the other cheek and marching again.

Civil rights was not a political movement, though there was political savvy. It was a Church movement. Yes it was mainly a black church movement, but some churches saw that it was the spirit of God stirring this movement and they joined.

When Bonhoeffer visited America before the start of WW2, he attended lot of prestigious white church pulpits. And he wrote in his journal, “you hear lot of good rhetoric but you don’t hear the gospel.”

Then he visited a black church invited by a fellow student, and he volunteered to teach Sunday school. He bought some negro spirituals. And when he met with the underground church in Germany, outlawedbecause he spoke Hitler, he played for his students on the grammaphone, “Swing high, swing low.”

 It was mainly black Christians, poor and oppressed, but it was the black church recognizing it’s royal heritage. It was the black church saying, “God is King. God will provide all our needs. We will seek God’s Kingdom first.”

So they marched. And they were beat. The were killed. Martin Luther wasn’t the only one was killed.

But Martin Luther’s life, and his words help us remember all the unnamed saints, normal people, who live month to month, normal Christians who go to church, and finally said I am not just gonna go to church, and I am the church, I am God’s royal priest, I will do the will of God.

And Martin’s last sermon, the one he preached before he was assassinated, captures a life living by this promise, “Seek God’s Kingdom, and all will be added to you.”

He ended his sermon with these words:

Last Sermon

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like any man, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

 

 

 

 

Reading

Matthew 6:33-34

33Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

34“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

 

Luke 12:22-30

22Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. 23For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. 24Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! 25Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27“Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. 28And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

29“And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. 30These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.31Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

32“So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

 

Last Sermon

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like any man, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.