Read: Matthew 6:31-34
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 ESV)
I loved playing Hide and Seek as a kid. My brother, cousins, and myself used to run around all over the mountains where my grandparents lived playing games of this sort. Of course, the best part was always finding someone.
Unfortunately, I think many of us have this idea that God has hidden away a lot of really important things. So, instead of spending our time trying to draw nearer to the Father, we ironically, and tragically, reject Him in an attempt to uncover all of the things we unconsciously think He must have hid from us.
Jesus told his disciples that this is a completely backward way of living. He taught that if you really want to find any kind of meaningful fulfillment in life you must seek God and his righteousness first. Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness may sound like a dual pursuit, but its actually not. Jesus wasn’t talking about to two separate things, he was reemphasizing the same thing.
Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness has nothing to do with pursuing our own righteousness. It has nothing to do with attempting to fill our wish lists. Seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness is about seeking Jesus. To come into all the added things first requires actually wanting Jesus more. As you pursue Jesus, as you become more like the person he wants you to be, your life will take shape in a way that God will then be able to trust you with all of the things that might have distracted you had He given them to you first.
Read: Matthew 6:25-30
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? (Matthew 6:27 ESV)
I was born a worrier. In the fourth grade my teacher told my mom she was afraid I was going to develop ulcers because of how badly I worried about my grades. Later on in high school God spoke to me through this passage in Matthew and changed my life forever.
I believe the experience I had with this passage is exactly what Jesus wanted his followers to have when he first taught this principle during the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus wants us to understand that excessive worry is bad for us. It is bad for us in every facet of life, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Worry leads to anxiety which can cause stress and sickness. It can creep into your mind creating paranoia, obsessiveness, and a skewed thought life. When worry seeps into your soul it can give root to unhealthy doubts about God and undermine your faith.
All of these things can be disastrous, but they are rarely isolated. Usually someone struggling with worry develops a combination of the above problems. Thankfully Jesus can walk us through it.
When God showed me the truth of a worry free life it didn’t lead me into a reckless carelessness full of irresponsibility. Instead God helped me to step up to my responsibilities and shoulder them with His full blessing. Knowing He would provide for me, empower me, and help me gave me the faith to take on more. It allowed me to set aside fear and uncertainty. And it gave me the assurance to take every step of faith wherever the Father was leading.
Read: Matthew 6:22-24
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24 ESV)
Have you ever found yourself facing a tough decision only to realize that money is playing a major factor in how you make that decision? If your life is anything like mine, that happens. Sometimes it can be a horrible feeling.
Jesus cautioned his followers about the deceptive allure of following money as a master. His blunt statement is absolutely true. It is impossible to serve God, and your bank account or bottom line.
Personally, some of my most challenging god-moments have involved money matters. I can’t help but feel like this is a direct attempt by God to lead me away from any kind of material idolatry. Those kinds of experiences are not easy. I wish I could say that I have always succeeded. The truth is that I haven’t.
However, turning over every aspect of my life to God means giving Him control of my check book too. It means submitting my spending habits, savings plans, and lifestyle choices to His high standards. It can be, and has been daunting. It is a process my wife and I have been intentionally working through over the last couple of years, and it has led to some pretty cool stuff, both in terms of Spiritual and material blessing. We never want anyone to say that we served anything other than God.
Read: Matthew 6:19-21
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21 ESV)
Just the idea of treasure is pretty cool. It makes me think of rare valuables of unimaginable worth. Sparkly shiny things tucked away in secret chests hidden away behind maps, traps, and adventure. It also elicits visions of priceless artifacts put on display in public places by people who wish to share their treasure with the world. Treasure is awesome.
Jesus’ concept of treasure painted an even better word picture. He defined treasure as something of value. Treasure as he taught it, was something of extreme importance. Treasure was and is whatever you put your heart into.
What you value matters. What you value shapes your hobbies, decisions, and ethics. What you value is your treasure, and your treasure is your values. How important you deem something to be gauges your willingness to invest in it. It determines your perception of its worth. Something perceived to be of high value is handled with care and respect. Something considered frivolous or unworthy is disregarded, neglected, or abused.
We make decisions about our treasure every day. Sometimes we share it. Often we hoard. Sometimes we decide people are treasured, and other times we see them as having no value at all. My prayer is that Jesus would help me daily to value things as he does. I want my heart to be where his is. I want my treasure to be the same. I have such a long way to go to get there.
Read: Matthew 6:16-18
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (Matthew 6:16 ESV)
One of the repeating themes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is the notion of prideful religious display. Jesus did not like the way the Pharisees regularly paraded their superficial religiosity around for everyone to see. He cautioned his followers against that kind of conduct.
I do not like to fast. It’s one of the spiritual disciplines that I am really just not a big fan of. But I do it. I don’t make a habit of it. I reserve it for significant moments of decision or when I feel like God has specifically asked me to do it. I also try really hard to make it a private matter between me, my family, and God.
That is my personal conviction about fasting. I truly, deeply, believe it is a biblically sound approach. I think God blesses our efforts to please Him in a special way when we make it a secret action between Father and child. I wonder, what other spiritual disciples can we practice in our lives more authentically by making them less public?
Read: Matthew 6:14, 15
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14, 15 ESV)
We have all been sinned against. We have all sinned against God, and other people. The English Standard Version uses the word trespasses which paints a significant word picture. All of us have passed into territory where we do not belong.
Thinking in terms of trespassing the idea of separation from God takes on a lot more meaning. God is sovereign. He is the rightful king of our hearts. But, when we assert selfish control over our own lives we have trespassed into His territory. This is the essence of sin and it puts distance between our hearts and our holy God.
Likewise people trespass into our territory. Perhaps they do so accidentally, or maybe even with pure intentions, but it is inevitable that we will be wronged by others at some point. This creates distance and discord between our hearts. Jesus taught that it is his followers’ duty to forgive those kinds of trespasses committed against us. We are to extend grace to our fellow man when that situation occurs.
Trespassing happens because of the idea of ownership. We easily, willfully, and frequently trespass against God because we think we possess ownership, when in fact He is in total ownership. We regularly feel trespassed against for the same reason. Sometimes it is valid as others extend their perceived ownership too far. Often it is invalid as the pride created because of our false sense of ownership is offended. Even this is encroaching on God’s dominion.
Forgiveness happens, and can only happen, when we lay aside our false sense of ownership over places in our hearts. When we are unthreatened by someone’s presence somewhere we will gladly welcome them in. This action extends forgiveness to others, but it also helps us to receive forgiveness from the Father.
Read: Matthew 6:9-13
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. (Matthew 6:13 ESV)
The final passage of the Lord’s Prayer, found in the Sermon on the Mount, is a clarion call from Christ for God to aid His people in our natural struggles with sin and evil. It’s a position we truly do need God’s help with. As fallen people we regularly put ourselves in harm’s way. We repeatedly place ourselves in situations where sin and temptation are easily accessible. We need God’s help in changing our hearts, minds, and motives.
This point hit home for me a couple of days ago as I was feeding my son breakfast. I had him strapped into his highchair and he kept gesturing for things around the room that he wanted. They were all things he was normally allowed to have, but they were not his breakfast. Someone had left these items within sight. They were tempting him. He desired them. In order for me to get him to eat his breakfast I had to remove the distractions. Once they were all put away he went on eating breakfast, the other stuff no longer mattered.
It’s not God’s duty to keep us from temptation. Often I believe we bring it on ourselves. I do however believe that He will help us rid our lives of things that distract us from Him if we ask Him to. And I believe He is often urging us to want His help in doing so. And I firmly believe that God is never the source of temptation for His children.