IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT




Seek First

Date: Jan. 10, 2016

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Matthew 6:19-34

Key Verse: Matthew 6:33

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Who here has seen the new Star Wars movie? It’s been making money hand over fist. It is the fastest movie to reach $1 billion in global ticket sales. Plus, in just over three weeks, it has made more money than any other movie in North America. On January 6, it surpassed the movie Avatar to be the highest grossing movie of all time in the US and Canada with $760.5 million. That is impressive considering that Avatar took 34 weeks to reach its final number and that occurred after the movie left theaters and came back again. It is amazing. You might already know that George Lucas is the one who created Star Wars and there is some significance to our area because George Lucas wants to build his museum just a couple of miles away between McCormick Place and Soldier Field. Now George Lucas is an interesting fellow. Not only did he create Star Wars, but he also created the Indiana Jones movies. It’s amazing that the Star Wars movies and the Indiana Jones movies were being made around the same times. The original trilogy for Star Wars was released from 1977 to 1983 and the original trilogy for Indiana Jones was released from 1981 to 1989. It is even more impressive that Harrison Ford had major roles in both series.

That first Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark gives a great example of seeking. In the movie, the government contacts Dr. Indiana Jones archaeologist and adventurer to track down the lost Ark of the Covenant that Moses had made. It is a race between Indy and the Nazi to seek out all the clues and find the lost Ark. The first stop is Nepal to retrieve the headpiece to the staff of Ra. After that, the adventure sends Indy seeking a map room to determine the location of the Ark using the headpiece as a guide. Once the location was known, Indy looks for the actual location of the Ark. Throughout the movie, people are uncovering clues in the search for the Ark. They seek it with everything that they have. Have you ever sought after something? There might have been a time where you lost your keys or wallet and you turned your house upside-down looking for it. Or you might have sought after the winning Powerball numbers for that $900 million jackpot, which nobody won (the jackpot is expected to be $1.3 billion by the next drawing). Or you might just be searching for Luke Skywalker. At any rate, there is always something we seek in the short term, but how about seeking throughout your life? What do you seek as a lifelong goal? Do you seek power, fame, money, comfort, pleasure, love or something else? What we seek, and we should seek, has repercussions throughout our lives. Our passage today addresses what we seek and how important it is to seek the right thing.

Now, we haven’t been in Matthew’s gospel since before Thanksgiving and we are getting back into it now. If you remember, we are right in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus is up on the mountainside talking to a crowd of people about great truths about God, his people and his kingdom. When we were reading the passage, you might have thought that it sounded pretty familiar. Part of this passage was actually a part of our Thanksgiving message, but we are going to go through it again in context with our series Kingdom Come. This passage begins, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” (19) We are a society of treasure seekers. We love to gather stuff. Our homes are big to hold all that stuff, and we have self-storage to store the extra stuff. We collect items like movies or knick-knacks based on what we like. My mother has hundreds of elephants around the house. I have heard of people having hundreds of shoes and their own shoe closets. Our closets are so packed with clothes that we don’t even remember half of what we have. Unfortunately, none of that stuff lasts forever. Those treasures will get worn, destroyed or stolen. I bought my car over eight years ago. It was a nice car: powerful, comfortable, lots of space. But in the past six months, I have put over $5000 into that car for repairing the suspension, brakes and a new set of tires. It is wearing out. For as nice as that car was, it is not a good treasure to store up. What good is a treasure that doesn’t last? No one treasures smoke because it dissipates in the smallest of breezes, but every treasure on earth has an expiration date.

Instead, Jesus calls for us to “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (20) Whereas everything on earth is ephemeral, everything in heaven is eternal. Everything on earth is dirt because “earth” means “dirt”. This means that the most precious things on earth are just dirt in heaven. We put so much value in gold, especially when the stock market gets rocky like this past week, but gold is merely a brick in heaven and carries little value. So then, the treasures of heaven have to be exceedingly more valuable than anything on earth because the treasures of earth are no more valuable than dirt. Not only are heavenly treasures more valuable than earthly ones, but just like heaven itself, they are eternal. No one is powerful enough to steal from heaven and heavenly treasure doesn’t wear out or get destroyed.

Heavenly treasure is what we should be seeking after, but not only because it is more valuable and is eternal, but also because our treasure has a way of defining us. Jesus continued, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (21) Our hearts are where our treasure is located. When our hearts are fixated on treasure that is ephemeral, we become concerned about the ephemeral. We become concerned about maintaining that treasure and preventing its wear and destruction. If your treasure is a car, you give your heart into maintaining the car to make sure that it lasts even longer. You wash it religiously; you don’t take it out in the winter to prevent salt from getting on it; you don’t treat it harshly when driving to make sure all parts last; and you make sure that nothing spills on the upholstery. We spend so much time on our treasure that it begins to affect our hearts. We begin to be so focused that we neglect other things. You might have thought that you would have been set if you won that $900 million Powerball drawing, but there is a stronger chance that you would have been more miserable after winning it. Time and again, you can find out that lottery winners’ lives have become worse after winning the lottery. In fact, many of the winners find themselves bankrupt after winning because once they have their treasure, they don’t have any idea how to manage that wealth and they squander it. That’s the nature of earthly treasure. Furthermore, when our hearts are on earthly treasure, our relationships become strained. How many relationships have been torn apart because of money? But if we seek heavenly treasure, our hearts are focused on heaven.

Jesus explains is differently and in more detail, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (22-23) Now, whatever our eyes are on determines how much light we have. If our eyes are on the heavenly, then we are filled with light. We become a benefit and encouragement to others. We become generous, loving and warm. If our eyes are on the earthly, then we are filled with darkness. We become dark and cold to others. We can become a blight on others’ lives instead of a blessing.

But you might be thinking that we should be able to have our eyes on both the heavenly and the earthly. What is wrong with such a desire? We have two eyes; can’t we focus on two things? Well, unless you are part chameleon with fully independent eyes, people just aren’t physically able to focus on two separate things. Our eyes are for the most part locked together. In the same way, we are unable to focus on both the heavenly and the earthly. We can try for a while, but we will fail. Jesus explains, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (24) When you try to seek after both heavenly and earthly treasures, there will come a point in time where the two treasures will be mutually exclusive and you can’t have both at that time. You’ll have to make a choice. Seeking money may mean that you have to work long hours to maintain that wealth, but God calls for us to take a day of rest to worship him. Do you work more or spend time with God? Eventually, you may hate the decision that you have to make and that will lead you to hating one of the two that you seek. We’re just not able to focus on both for all that long.

So, what should we seek? Earthly treasure doesn’t last long and makes us cold, dark and bitter people. That doesn’t sound so appealing when we say it like that, right? On the other hand, heavenly treasure is eternal and fills us with warmth and light. Heavenly treasure is what we should seek, but you might have noticed that I am woefully short of details of what heavenly treasure actually is. The passage doesn’t actually mention it explicitly, but it does allude to it in the next part. Jesus continues,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? (25-30)

Jesus uses the word “therefore” to connect the two pieces. We cannot serve both God and money; therefore, we do not need to worry. Jesus assumes that we would choose the heavenly treasure and because we chose the heavenly, we do not need to worry about earthly needs. God will provide. Jesus says to look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant crops or store up food, but God feeds them. It is winter in Chicago, and I still see birds around. They are provided for. In God’s world, they are valuable enough to make sure they survive and have plenty enough to eat, but people are even more valuable than that. If God provides for something less valuable, surely he will provide for something more valuable!

It is no different for clothes or anything else. We do not have to worry about anything, because God our father will provide. “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (31-32) We don’t need to run after earthly treasure like the rest of the world, because God knows what we need. Now, look at all these verses and you will see that true heavenly treasure is. True heavenly treasure is God himself. He is the one who provides for all our needs. He is eternal and never changing.

Now, you might think that I have gone a little Looney Toons saying that God is the heavenly treasure, but there is precedent for it. Abraham, the father of faith, was having a hard time. He was old and had no children, which he wanted so badly. His nephew Lot took off after Abraham just rescued him. He was feeling very alone and small, even after a great victory. But God came to him and said, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1) God told Abraham that he was Abraham’s great reward, a treasure. Furthermore, Jesus said of God in a prayer, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) Knowing God is the definition of eternal life. That is definitely a treasure. God is the only one who can give eternal life, so that makes knowing him the very definition of eternal life. God is the heavenly treasure. Therefore, we really need to be seeking him.

Jesus continues, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (33) We need to be seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. One of the main emphases is the word “first”. We need to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness. We have to desire God first. Many times, the worries of the world try to make us focus on them. It’s been a crazy week. On Wednesday, I had the kids in the car and got a flat tire. I couldn’t get the tire off to put a spare on, so I called a tow truck and Viola. She was almost all the way to work and I asked her to turn around. I had the car towed to a tire place and eventually I found out that all the tires needed to be replaced. It was another heavy burden. Then when Viola came to pick us up, she told me that she was hearing a noise with her car. I wanted to hear what it was, so I drove everyone home and then took a look at the tires. There was a bolt in one of the tires, so I drove right back to the tire place to have that tire repaired. Within one hour, both cars had tire problems. It was stressful. To make it worse, Viola had a presentation that day and I was supposed to be in training for something. She made it to her presentation and I had to reschedule training. The next day Ella developed an infection on one finger and we sent to an urgent care clinic to get it checked out. Worry about so much could fill our souls. It seems so silly now, but it was so stressful then. God has always provided for us, but I couldn’t help but feel so powerless. I could tell that, in my life, I was not seeking God and Jesus first. If I had, I would not have worried or have succumb to that stress. I could tell that because I was so hurt, so bitter, so angry, so easily frustrated. I was dark and in need of the light to shine through me. God needs to be my treasure, because he is a treasure that purifies.

So, what about you? Have you seen the effect of what your treasure is doing to you? Do you see any darkness in your life that is originating from you? Frustration, pain, and anger come because we the things of this earth. We hope for things to get better in our lives, because we treasure our lives. When they don’t get better, we become frustrated and angry, and we take it out on others. Our pain leads us to give pain to others. We need to put our hope into something greater than ourselves. We need to put our hope into something greater…into God. We don’t need to worry about tomorrow or our lives, we need to seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and God will provide for the rest. We need to give our all in seeking God, like Indy did for the Ark. We need to make sacrifices to seek God, like everyone did seeking Luke Skywalker in the latest Star Wars. We need to make a decision on what we value most. Where is your treasure?

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Daily Bread

Prepare the Way for the Lord

Luke 3:1-20

Key Verse: 3:4

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

  “The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
  ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.

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