Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Matthew 6:33
As we continue to unpack what it means to be deeply rooted in relationship with God, we are looking closely at the basic principles of Christianity; the Who/What/When/Where/How/Why of faith. So far, we have explored The Who and The What of Christianity, and determined that the answer to both of these is…
wait for it…
So today, I want to talk about The When.
If it seems odd to pose the question of the importance of The When, then read on, sweet friend. Because this is something God feels very strongly about. So much so, that he addresses it several times throughout scripture, including at very first of The Ten Commandments (very big deal,) and then again through Jesus in his most famous sermon of all as the greatest commandment of all (very very big deal,) and also in nearly every book and every story, creating one big overarching theme throughout the entire Bible (super very big deal.)
I believe God answers the question of The When in 3 ways; by telling us the answer is First, Only, and All.
First things first; let’s look at First:
The 10 commandments were the original laws given to God’s people through Moses and start off in Exodus, Chapter 20. God quickly establishes that these are his instructions and that he is the Lord. ” 1Then God spoke all these words, saying, 2“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…” Then he gets right down to it with rule # 1; “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:3
Pretty clear, right? Almost abrupt, even. In fact, no matter which translation you look at, it is always worded that concisely. And to me, that language, “no other Gods before me” insinuates that God must be first if there is no one “before.”
Then, later in Matthew, during the Sermon on the Mount (the most important sermon ever given,) Jesus teaches about many different things, including who God blesses, the purpose of the law, how to deal with anger, lust, divorce, getting revenge, and dealing with our enemies (Matthew 5). He then moves on to why we should give, pray, and fast (Matthew 6). Finally, towards the end of chapter 6, he begins to teach about why we shouldn’t worry, especially pertaining to having enough food, clothing, etc… He ends with a beautiful promise, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 . Another translation puts it like this:
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
I am such a Word Nerd. I love to dig around and study it and go back to other translations, even the original Greek and Hebrew text. And if there is one thing I have learned about scripture, it is that God’s wording is never accidental or casual, especially when Jesus is speaking. Because Jesus was the perfect son of the perfect God, I believe his chose his words very carefully and very purposefully. And he is very clear, we should seek God First.
Ezra Taft Benson made another excellent point on this in saying; “When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.” Having spent much of my Christian walk learning my lessons the hard way, I can personally attest to the truth of this. In the seasons where I have put God first and kept him as my first love, my relationship with him (and others) thrived, and there was overwhelming hope and peace. In contrast, in the seasons where I wandered a bit, there was drama in my relationship with him (and others,) and overwhelming frustration and exhaustion.
To add to that, as we discussed in a previous post- The Who-, Jesus is the one and only way to God and is also known as “The Foundation of Faith.” Even those of us who couldn’t possibly be trusted with an empty tool belt (much less actual tools) know that in building, the foundation must be poured first, before a structure can be built. Again, believing that God chooses each word purposefully, that word “first” makes yet another appearance in Revelation 2:4 when the church of Ephesus is being reprimanded for falling away, saying, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
God intends to be put First in our lives. He also intends to be worshipped Only.
Now, don’t misread what I am saying here; this doesn’t let us off the hook on loving others – that is clearly addressed in scripture as well. But if we go back to Exodus 20 and rule # 1 and “You shall have no other gods before Me.” further reading in that book brings us to Exodus 34:14 and, “Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
It seems to be that if God wants us not to worship any other god, this means he intends to be our Only God. And doesn’t this seems fitting, given who he is and what he did on our behalf?
Here we have God – the sovereign God of the entire universe (no big deal) – who loved us so much that he sent his son to suffer and die on our behalf in order to bridge the gap between his perfection and our hot mess. I think that if he was willing to watch his son suffer like he did, all for the purpose of providing us a way to be in relationship with him, then it must have meant an awful lot to him. No wonder he is called a jealous God.
God is not content to play second fiddle to some other perceived priority or deity. He is GOD and He should be loved First and worshipped Only.
And yet, even those of us who know all of this and love the Lord like crazy have a tendency to get distracted by our everyday lives and challenges. We have stressful jobs and complicated grocery lists and ungrateful children and unruly husbands. We have things that need tending to and getting done. And sometimes that distracts us from what should be First and our priorities to get out of whack. Sometimes it also causes us to lose our focus on the Only thing that truly matters in life. We begin to idolize our homes, families, jobs, even ministries. And even if we are careful to leave space for our spiritual lives, we sometimes can even get Spiritual ADD and get distracted by “good things” like service and study.
A perfect example of this is the story of Mary and Martha, where Martha was supposed to be hanging out with Jesus in their home but ended up trying to start a catfight with her sister Mary instead. It is an interesting faceoff, because as all of us good little hostesses with the mostestess know, there are things that need to be done when you are having someone in your home. Martha was trying to take care of business while Mary was just sitting at Jesus’ feet, talking with him like a friend. But Martha got a little too caught up in the serving of Jesus- so much so that she was missing out on the presence of Jesus. Jesus had to step in and correct her.
I get it the moral of the story, I do. But I want to be clear: I don’t judge Martha. In fact, I identify with her. Okay fine… I AM her. While she was in the kitchen trying to clean off the counters and whip up a lasagna for her Savior (LORD KNOWS nothing says love like lasagna,) her lazybum sister is lounging in the living room with Jesus and having all the fun. If I had been Martha, I would have been banging pots and pans around as loudly as possible, all while sighing audibly and muttering under my breath about sainthood and martyrdom.
But when Martha tries to tattle on Mary to Jesus, he makes things clear. “41But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10
Again, pretty clear; “There is only one thing worth being concerned about.”
This makes me think that when I finally get to heaven and see him face to face, I will find out exactly how silly all my striving really was. That all my love-filled lasagnas were just the “details” and all he really wanted was for me to discover what it was like to sit at his feet and be in his presence. I think that when we take the time to do just that, we get to experience another great thing; Loving God with our All.
Jumping back over to Matthew again, Jesus establishes the All when he is asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Matthew 22:36 – in which he answers,
“…And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment.” Matthew 22:37-28
I love this so much because again, if we go back to the established truth that Jesus chooses his wording carefully and purposefully, I don’t believe Jesus used the word All 3 times because he couldn’t think of a better one. I think he used it 3 times because he really meant it.
“‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.”
ALL takes up a lot of space, y’all. And really, doesn’t he deserve that from us; for us to love him with All we have because All we have is from him?
So to circle back to what I was saying in the beginning, in answer to the question of The When, I believe God answers in 3 ways; by telling us the answer is First, Only, and All.
I also believe in Now.
While I can’t really find any scripture verses that directly support my theory of Now, I will tell you there are hundreds of verses and dozens of stories that build the overarching theme for the entire Bible: God loves us and has a plan for each of our lives. Further, I believe that he has gifted and equipped each of us with a specific calling and purpose, and that when we live our lives as he commands, we experience the joy of fulfilling it. But when we fail to put him First, worship him Only, and give him our All, we are living outside of his will and unable to fulfill our purpose fully. I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever want to spend a single second longer than I have to outside of the safety and sanctity of his will. I want, with all my heart, to be as close to him as possible, to live the best life possible, and to fulfill the purpose he gave me as well as possible. And I want to do that Now.
With that being said, there is no time like the present to take a good look at our lives and priorities and ask ourselves “Am I putting God First? Do I worship him Only? Am I giving him my All?” If the answer is anything less than an emphatic YES, let’s take this opportunity to pray.
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Father, you clearly tell me in your word that you are to be first in my life and that you desire that I love you with ALL of my heart, ALL of my soul, and ALL of my mind. I confess, Lord, that I have not been doing that; that I have been easily distracted by the things of this world, even by spiritual things. I have lost my first love. Father, I believe that you have a plan and purpose for my life. I want to live that out in order to glorify you. Help me to live within your will and fulfill the purpose you have given me. Help me to put you first and love you with my all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.