Pulpit Reflections

Pulpit Reflections
At the heart of teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ is an idea that is profoundly at odds with what most Americans, and indeed most human beings, think about the world in which we live. Human beings generally consider it only reasonable, wise and right to center their lives in themselves. After all, our lives are the most valuable possessions we have, how could it be otherwise than that we should be concerned first of all with our own well-being, or perhaps even better, also with the well-being of other humans.

Over against this kind of thinking the Bible teaches that self-centered living is actually evil, and that as Jesus said in Matt. 6:33, we should, "Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness," that is, that we should center our lives in God. Even when we think of altruism, that is of serving others rather than ourselves, we miss the important point that we ought to serve God first of all, and that we need to "seek His righteousness" by doing what He commands. There is a proper place for self-interest and altruism, but when those things replace serving our creator, God, we are really engaging in idolatry, the worship of a false god. We ought to take care of ourselves, and ought to have the well-being of others as a part of our purpose in life, but we ought to do those things not for themselves, but as a part of our service of God.

What's the difference, you might ask, between doing good things for themselves, or doing them for God? There are two very large problems with leaving God out of our every thought and action. The first of these is that we are living in God's world, and if we fail to make Him the first purpose of our lives, we are simply poachers, taking and using things that do not belong to us but that do belong to God. We are, after all, rather temporary residents on God's earth, and as the apostle Paul said, "We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we will take nothing out of it." The second reason for serving God first of all in all that we do, is that God alone has the intelligence, wisdom, righteousness and total knowledge of everything that is needed to decide what we ought to do. When we make up our own rules, we are again poaching on God's right as creator and ruler of the universe, and we are substituting our foolishness for God's wisdom. As David said in Psalm 14, "The fool has said in his heart that there is no God."

Taking seriously what Christ says about serving God first leads to the conclusion that the things we need to live are really byproducts of serving God, and that is exactly how Jesus ends this saying in Matt. 6:33. "Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness," Jesus said, "and all these things will be added to you." The "all these things" He is talking about are food, housing and clothing, the things "God knows that you need (verse 32)."

The point is clear, when we make things we need and enjoy the center of our lives, we are engaging in the idolatry of those things. But when we make serving God above all the priority of our lives, these things are simply the blessing we enjoy as gifts from God. Think about it, none of us made the world or the things in it, there is no denying that. We can believe that this fabulous diversity and usefulness of the world is "just there," or we can be true disciples of Christ and honor the God who created it all. Thanksgiving is about that!

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