“So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will be eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
What is the organizing principle of your life? If you are feeling particularly spiritual as you answer, you might say, “Jesus.” If you are feeling a bit more normal, though, you might be more inclined to admit it is something else. Perhaps there is a person (other than Jesus) on whom your life is centered. It could be a certain activity is the thing that drives everything else. Hopefully your life isn’t driven by an addiction of some kind. More likely than any of these things, though, is simply your desire to eat decent food, wear clothes, and sleep indoors. And that makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Those things are all basic needs everyone has. But what if there was another way to organize our lives that consistently put us in contact with what we need most of all? Let’s talk this morning about organizing our lives and making space for what matters most.
I was with one of my kids at a doctor appointment recently, and as part of their standard list of questions to ask patients, she asked something I had never been asked before. She asked if we struggled at all with food insecurity. In other words, were we able to put enough food on the table each day to feed our family. By God’s grace, there has never been a time in my life when the answer to that question has been anything other than, “No,” but it was a good reminder in the moment that such an experience as mine is hardly universal.
That particular medical practice asks that question of all their patients because they know there are some folks who do face not getting their basic, daily needs met, and they want to be able to help them do something about that if possible. Jesus was speaking here to a group of people for whom the ability to meet such basic needs as food, clothing, and shelter was almost never a guarantee. It is likely that many of them spent a great deal of time, attention, and energy in a given day focused on how to meet these needs. Perhaps to put that another way, they worried about them. Their pursuit of these things was the thing around which they organized their lives. Jesus was calling them – and us – to something different.
The trouble here is that it is incredibly easy to fall into a pattern of giving our attention entirely to things like these. After all, we need them every day. We can’t make it through life without them. We can hardly make it through a day without them. The question of how much attention we give them, though, is answered by another question: How well do we know the God revealed in the pages of the Scriptures? Jesus was explicit with His audience on this point. The people who “eagerly seek all these things” are not the people who have any kind of meaningful knowledge of God. He refers to them as Gentiles, but we should understand Him to be referring generally to people who don’t have a relationship with God. If they did have such a relationship, they would know that their “heavenly Father knows that [they] need them.”
If the claims of the guys who contributed to the Scriptures are true, then there is a God who not only created the world and everything in it, but who sustains it each day. He loves the people He created so much that He was willing to send His only Son to die for them so that they might be in a relationship with Him. This same God is passionately concerned about not only the spiritual needs of His people, but of their physical needs as well. In His perfect knowledge, He knows what all of their needs are. In His perfect power, He is able to meet those needs. In His perfect goodness, He wants to meet their needs. If all of this is true, that means something for how we live and organize our lives.
A life that is organized entirely around seeing our basic needs met is a life that does not reflect any kind of knowledge of this God. This is because if this God exists and if you are in a relationship with Him, your primary focus is going to be on this relationship. You will still work hard every day in order to earn a living that will help to see those basic needs met. In fact, you’ll do many, if not most, of the same things as the person who doesn’t have this relationship in place. But the reason you do them and the mindset you bring to them will be different. You will do those things not so that you have what you need, but out of gratitude to the God who gave you gifts and enabled you to use them. You’ll do them out of a humble awareness that all of your efforts to meet your needs could prove to be entirely in vain, but your God can still meet them by other means if He so desires. You’ll do them so that you can use the fruits of your labors to bless other people as you trust that God will take care of your needs. When your organizing principle is God’s kingdom and righteousness, everything about your life changes.
Instead of worry, you are able to have the peace of knowing God has your back. Instead of having to be constantly on the lookout for how you can get what you need, you’ll always be searching for how you can bless someone else. Instead of fearing whether or not your efforts will be sufficient, you will be contentedly enjoying the good gifts God brings your way. Instead of hating the drudgery of doing the same things every day with minimal rewards, you’ll delightedly work with a grateful spirit in order to bring glory to God. Everything is different.
As we continue in the season of Advent, our attention is supposed to be focused on preparing ourselves for Jesus’ arrival. Yet if our life is organized around meeting our own needs, there won’t be any space for anything else. When everything depends on us, we don’t have the time or energy to make room for another person in our hearts. This becomes especially true in this season when our already full schedules are pushed beyond their max and we are adding sometimes hundreds of dollars’ worth of extra expenditures to the budget. The normal rat race we run starts to look more like something out of the race in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But when our lives are organized around our trust in our heavenly Father, making room for His Son becomes a pleasure. It doesn’t add to our already busy lives, but rather helps to relieve the burdens we are already bearing by the addition of His perfect strength. And it focuses our attention more fully on the things that matter most; the things that are eternal.
Today, take some time to reflect on a very simple question: What is the organizing principle of your life? And, after you come up with your first answer, sit down and think about it some more until you arrive at the real answer. Organize your life around your trust in God’s character. You will indisputably be glad that you did.