Guest Writer Sabine Baring-Gould
“Seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:31).
We read in ancient Roman history that a general named Aemilius Paulus was appointed to the Roman army in a time of war and great apprehension. He found in the army a sad condition of affairs: there were more officers than fighting men, and all these officers wanted to have their advice taken, and the war conducted in accordance with their several opinions. Then Aemilius Paulus said to them, “Hold your tongues, and sharpen your swords, and leave the rest to me.”
It seems to me that our Lord’s advice in this day’s Gospel is of somewhat the same nature. He finds in the army of His Church everyone clamoring after his worldly affairs, wanting this, and objecting to that, all seeking their own, and not the things of Jesus Christ. Then He says, “Hold your tongues, and sharpen your swords, and leave the rest to Me.” “Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or with what shall we be clothed? Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek you first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:25-34).
In our great solicitude after our temporal welfare, we do not seek first our spiritual welfare, but put that altogether in the background. In fact, we do not trust God, we trust ourselves chiefly. We fear if we do not devote our whole attention to our worldly prosperity, we shall not get on. And so we neither seek the kingdom of God, nor the righteousness of God; we seek only the world and the things that are in the world. If we had more trust in God, it would not be so.
The Bible is made up of six classes of books. To the first class belong the historical books. To the second the book of Psalms. To the third class belong the books that deal with Wisdom. To the fourth the Prophets. To the fifth the Gospels, and to the sixth the canonical Epistles.
Now in all these different classes of books we find the same assurance made by God, that if we will but attend to our spiritual concerns, He will see that our temporal affairs do not suffer. In one of the first historical books we have this promise: “If you walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments and do them; then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and you shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely” (Leviticus 26:3-5).
In the book of Psalms David says, “O fear the Lord, you His saints: for they that fear Him lack nothing” (24:9) and again, “Oh, cast your burden on the Lord, and He will nourish you” (45:23).
In the books that deal with Wisdom we have “The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish” (Proverbs 10:3).
In the Prophets, “If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19).
In the Gospels, “Seek you first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
In the Epistles, “Cast all your care on Him, for He cares for you” (Peter 5:7).
We are generally perfectly satisfied when we have an agreement drawn out between man and man—one promise on one scrap of paper is enough—but here we have at least five, and I could produce you plenty of others; yet, because it is a bond signed by God, you mistrust it. “O you of little faith” (Luke 12:28). You will take a bond signed by a Jew, but not one signed by God.
“Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.” Is God not our Father? There is no Father like to Him, no Father loves us as He does. If He loves us, will He not care for us? What good father will neglect his child, and deny it those things that are necessary?
Ask any little boy whom you see in rags, “My child, why are you in rags? What will you do to get a new suit? You have nothing of your own.” Certainly, his natural and proper answer should be, “I will ask my father. He will supply me.” When a child is hungry, where should he go? To whom should he apply? To his father. Why, then, do not we trust our heavenly Father as any little child will trust his father on earth? Yet we know that He is our Father, and is, as Paul says, “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4).
Our Lord bids us look at the birds of the air. Who feeds them? Their Creator. Will He not then care for us far more, who are His noblest creatures?
A great poetical and satirical writer (Horace) says that this was the popular maxim of his day: Quaerenda pecunia primum, virtus post nummos [“Seek money first, and be good afterward.”] What he had the boldness to say, a great people have the boldness to do. They leave the kingdom of Heaven to be sought after they have spent their lives in seeking the things of this world. But the things of this world sought without God will not profit.
When Isaac set his sons to bring him venison, that he might bless them and die, Jacob arrived first with the savory meat; then Isaac lifted up his voice and blessed his son. “God give you of the dew of Heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine” (Genesis 27:28).
Afterward Esau came in with venison. And when he saw that his brother had received the first blessing, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father” (27:34).
Then Isaac said to him, “Behold, your dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of Heaven from above” (27:39).
Each had the same, the richness of golden harvests, the abundance of fruit, and the soft dews and rains in their season. But there was a notable difference, adapted to the characters of the two brothers. Esau was a profane man, he disregarded divine things. He was ready to sell his birthright, his privilege to be the forefather of Messiah, for a mess of pottage. He cared not for God, neither was God in all his thoughts. It was otherwise with Jacob: he regarded God, he sought God, he saw God in the visions of the night, he strove with God in prayer. He had set God always before him. And, thus, these several blessings were apportioned to them. Esau had the fatness of the earth and the dew of Heaven, Jacob also had the fatness of the earth and the dew of Heaven; but Isaac said to Jacob alone “God give you all these things.” To Esau only “You shall get for yourself all these things.” God before all to Jacob, and all these things added to him. All these things to Esau, and God nowhere.
And now, my brethren, try to trust God more. Do not give up all thought to the concerns of this life, but leave them somewhat on the hands of God, while you consider the concerns of your soul. You will not suffer for it. If you be willing and obedient, and seek the kingdom of Heaven, He will nourish you.
“Blessed are all they who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:12).
Copyright © 2014 Alexandra Lee
Photo Credit: Farne Island Light, Northumberland, England
*Adapted from Sabine Baring-Gould [1834-1924], The Village Pulpit, Volume II. Trinity to Advent / A Complete Course of 66 Short Sermons, or Full Sermon Outlines for Each Sunday, and Some Chief Holy Days of the Christian Year (London: Skeffington & Son, 1886), sermon 52. Quotes, scriptural locations, photos, links, emendations added.