But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matt. 6,33. (ESV)
I am a woman who thrives on an orderly life. I enjoy a challenge to create order from chaos. I love to work with colour, texture, fabrics and flowers to create homely spaces.
I am a lover of beauty and simplicity, ideally both together.
I understand about priorities, in professional work life and as a mother of three boys.
I also value certainty: knowing what my weekend plans are and those of our sons; having a holiday booked well in advance with all the details taken care of; starting to plan for Christmas in November; having a stack of potential gifts and cards in my cupboard for impromptu presents.
So when Jesus asks me to seek God’s Kingdom first, does He really mean that so long as I re-order my priorities to allow for prayers and bible readings each morning, have some charitable work scheduled in my diary each week, and attend Church every Sunday morning then He will shower me with everything else I need in life?
It’s an offer that requires some consideration. The sceptic in me looks for the catch.
Someone once told me that our lives are like jars of stones. These stones vary in size from hand sized rocks to the finest gravel. The people who fit the most stones into their jars are the ones who curate their collection of stones within the jar most intelligently, with the large rocks (priorities) placed first in the jar, so allowing maximum space for pebbles and gravel (additional, but less critical, life enriching and useful activities).
Perhaps there is something different about the ‘jars’ Christians are given. Or maybe that extra large priority ‘stone’ of God’s kingdom has supernatural properties of fluidity to allow for the ‘abundant life’ God has promised to be fitted in alongside?
What did Jesus really mean when he promised that ‘all these things will be added to you’? The context of this statement is one where Jesus has just been discussing with His disciples about the everyday cares of life, about food, shelter, clothing, investments, money, the future.
This all seems too simplistic at first glance and completely at odds with the monumental struggle I have to do that one thing that Jesus asks, to put Him first.
And the reason?
I want to be in control.
I’m not convinced Jesus’ list of my needs would be exactly the same as mine. I have sneaked a few extra items onto my list over the years which I’m pretty sure Jesus would frown upon, those extra pairs of shoes, that little black (blue/pink/green) dress I thought I needed, the ‘holiday’ wardrobe and all the pretty household things that turn ordinary to special.
Putting God first, seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, is more than just reshuffling my priorities in any given day or week. It’s about laying down my need for control and trusting God for my needs.
So perhaps what Jesus is really saying here is: “You can continue to indulge the counterfeit ‘god’ of being master of your own destiny. You can continue to angst over every consuming aspect of human need and misery, or you can trust me….”
Timothy Keller, in his excellent book ‘Counterfeit Gods’ describes well how our need to be masters of our destiny can become an idol to which we are enslaved.
“Human beings have very little real power over their lives. Ninety-five percent of what sets the course of their lives is completley outside their control. This includes the century and place of their birth, who their parents and family are, their childhood environment, physical stature, genetically hardwired talents, and most of the circumstances they find themselves in. We are not infinite creators but finite dependant creatures.”
Timothy Keller. Counterfeit Gods 2009
Trusting God does not mean he will give me everything on my ‘wish list’. He may allow pain, heartache, or grief to come alongside, He may take me on a path of austerity or plenty, He may ask me to give more than I receive, He may ask me to love more than I am loved, but he will always add what I need, and it will be enough.
“For one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”
Luke 12,15. (ESV)