The Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity: Seek First His Righteousness

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Matthew 6: 24-34

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Love of Mammon goes hand in hand with worry. We love Mammon because we believe it will relieve us of worry. Worry, in turn, is rooted in survival in this world and is triggered by fear of hunger, thirst, and the cold.

In contrast Jesus establishes teaching, the teaching that God is our Father. Now, God has an only-begotten Son, so for Jesus to teach God as our Father is for Him to share what He possesses. This is a supremely spiritual activity, insofar as Jesus said of the Holy Spirit that He would take what is His and declare it to us. Hence, again, teaching. Jesus teaches us by the Holy Spirit to pray “Abba Father,” or “Our Father.” This testifies to our status as God’s dear children. If that is the case, why would we worry about hunger, thirst, and the cold?

Our Father and Mammon are either/or. To pursue one is to drive away the other, and that’s how it works. The less we believe God is our Father through Christ, the more we believe our lot in this world is up to us, that this is our one shot at salvation, or success, or whatever. The more we worship Mammon. The more we believe God is our Father through Christ, the less we see this world as our end all and be all – the more we realize we’re pilgrims just passing through.

Jesus uses nature to teach us. “All Your works shall praise You, O LORD,” says the Psalm. To praise is to confess, and such is the witness of all creation. Each creation is held in place, sustained by the Father. The birds of the air, the lilies, each of them are fed and clothed by the Father. One of the great joys of faith – and one we often forget about – is that through Christ all creation becomes a proclamation, because He fills all things. Also, because He fills all things the Psalm is true, that “The earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.”

The Gnostic vision is cast in shades of darkness and grey, for all the creation is under the tyranny of the Demiurge, Yaltabaoth. The only light is from within, from the Self’s connection to an otherworldly Light. Not so the Christian. God became part of this creation, filled all creation, so that He might redeem the creation. Consequently all the world is a proclamation.

Yes, all of it. Even the evil. Look at the birds of the air…just before they hit the grille of the car while on the highway, and they get stuck there by their beaks all the way home – that happened to me recently. And look at the lilies…just before the lawn mower mulches them. Ah yes, the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord!

Absolutely! Because whatever ugliness we see in this world, it’s not as ugly as the Son of God hanging in a bloody mass on a cross outside the city gates on a cloudy, thundery afternoon. The ugliness here is not so much of sight – although that was bad; yet, there have been far worse ugly situations on earth (like the poor soul recently who had his face cut off by a Mexican cartel) – but of what it represents. It represents humanity’s murder of God, physically, psychologically, philosophically, and spiritually.

And yet, as ugly as that was, God filled it. And by that act, He fills all ugliness, redeems it, even sanctifies it. The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer was known as the pessimistic philosopher. He became a Gnostic (sympathetic to eastern spirituality) partly because he once saw a poor rabbit bloody and mangled, having been ripped apart by some predator. The God of this world is too cruel, he believed.

And yes, it is a challenge, to accept Jesus’ premise that looking at nature can reveal the goodness of the Lord. And not only the premise, but the conclusion is suspect. Christians never have to hunger? Christians are always clothed?

Obviously not. And yet Jesus teaches it. But like God growing Abraham into his name – “father of many” when at the time he was the father of none – the Lord has to grow us into His teachings. Isn’t His teaching like a seed? Of course, and the nature of the seed is, it must endure or it dies by rock, by weed, or by path. It must take up its cross daily and follow Christ. It must “wait on the Lord.” David wrote these words knowing well what it meant to wait on the Lord – he waited several decades for his throne after having been anointed.

The Father knows what we need. He knows what throne He will give us, whatever that means. And it may mean camping out in caves for several years. But our task is to worry not about hunger and thirst, but to hunger and thirst for righteousness. Or, as Jesus puts it, to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Those who seek will find; those who hunger and thirst will be filled.

To seek, to hunger, and to thirst – when coupled with the promises of Christ – is to have faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for. It’s the possession of things not yet attained. Filled with such things, by faith, ends worry. We need not worry about food or drink; nor do we need to worry about righteousness. Both things our Lord fills us with.

It’s a daily challenge – sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Christ limits our horizons to the day, just as He did with Israel in the wilderness. Our bread comes day by day. How wonderful. How wonderful our Lord is a day by day Lord, for whom “now is the day of salvation” and because of whom St. Paul could “forget those things which are behind and reach forward to those things which are ahead.”

Still, interesting that Jesus describes the day as “its own trouble.” It is a cross. It’s a cross we take up daily. Yet, how wonderful we’re freed from long term implications of our daily crosses – “I dropped the cross today in this area of my life, it must mean I’m destined for failure in this area!” Nope. We live day by day. Each new day is a day with our heavenly Father, Him providing us with what we need, Him sustaining us with His righteousness.

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