Friday, February 13, 2009

The Main Event

"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 important than food, and the body more important 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? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies 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, O you of little faith? 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. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt. 6:25-33).

“. . . all these things (food and drink to sustain life and clothes to adorn the body)will be ADDED to you”—in other words, they’re NOT THE MAIN EVENT—they are add-ons. The main event, according to verse 33, is:

· God’s kingdom—cooperating with God’s will coming to pass on earth as it is in heaven.
· God’s righteousness—allowing God to make things right on the inside of us and in the world around us, by letting his good and holy Spirit operate freely in and through us.

Steven Covey, in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, identifies four kinds of tasks that face us every day: tasks that are 1) not urgent and not important (like reading the comics sometime today), 2) urgent but not important (like catching a TV program that is coming on in 5 minutes), 3) not urgent but important (like teaching one’s children safety rules), and 4) urgent and important (like taking an injured child to the emergency room). [All of these examples are mine.] Covey points out that an effective person prioritizes. He puts first things first. He does not do the unimportant first so that there is no time left for the important. He makes the time for important things—even the ones that don’t have to be done yet.

When I read Seven Habits, I was appalled to recognize that I wasted a lot of precious time creating things over again because I did not have a good enough filing system so that I could find my creations the next time I needed them. I found the time to get organized, and was rewarded by a less frantic life, with more leisure to do things creatively and well.

How does this apply to Matt. 6:33? Most of mankind—even Christ-followers—have succumbed to investing almost all of their time and energy into what Jesus categorizes as not urgent and of lesser importance. According to his statement, “earning a living” will happen as an add-on if one puts one’s best time and energies into the Father’s business. This is hard for most of us to believe. It seems to be irresponsibly leaving the matter of providing the necessities of life “up in the air.”

Here’s an example I read years ago of putting first things first, Jesus’ way:

R. G. LeTourneau* was struggling one evening with a design problem. One of the machines that was essential to performing a task the next day, needed to be fitted with a part that would enable it to function differently. What kind of part would it take?

It was almost time for a weekly meeting at church [I believe it was with a group of young people that he was leading], and he was no nearer to a solution than he had been all day. The design was urgent. He had to have an idea to implement by tomorrow. But, finally, he decided to honor his commitment to the Lord and to the church. . . . As he started home, later that night, the needed inspiration burst into his mind. Sitting down to his drawing board, he quickly sketched the perfect design.

Obviously, we each need to ask the Lord exactly what the balance should be in our individual lives between godly priorities and earthly tasks. But one thing is certain, we will never get around to obeying God’s call to be about the Father’s business unless we purpose in our hearts to put that first.
* Available through God Runs My Business; The Story of R. G. LeTourneau. by Albert W. Lorimer and 77 (Paperback - 1941).

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