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Written by Jim Jordal   
Thursday, 11 May 2017

SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD

By Jim Jordal

 "Therefore don't be anxious, saying, 'What will we eat?', 'What will we drink?' or, 'With what will we be clothed?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first God's Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. Matt. 6:32-33 WEB

The entire 6th chapter of Matthew seems aimed at separating between mere trivia and the eternal, vital things of life. It’s human nature to be worried by the really inconsequential things of this life, but when one is hungry or thirsty it does not seem trivial to seek food or water.

In this passage Jesus urges us to transcend the fleshly needs of food and drink and seek the more enduring aspects of his kingdom, like righteousness, truth, mercy and justice. But merely existing through life is not an adequate spiritual posture; we are to seek the deeper things of the Spirit as revealed by the prophets and teachings of Jesus. Seeking something means paying attention to it and purposely addressing one’s actions toward that goal. It is active Christianity in pursuit of a goal, not passive existence in a religious atmosphere.

If we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, exactly what is this Kingdom mentioned so often in Scripture? To begin, it’s not heaven.

God’s Kingdom is here on earth---but it’s a cleansed, healed entity bringing righteousness, justice, mercy, and love that we envision. It’s not a place of beautiful dreams and harps playing, as I feared as a child. I’ve always been oriented toward activity, so I wasn’t enthused at the thought of sitting on a cloud playing a harp forever.

Seeking the Kingdom of God means creating here on earth exactly what Jesus in his first sermon said he was coming to accomplish: Good news to the poor, healing for the broken hearted, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, and deliverance to the oppressed. You can attempt to avoid the impact of this truth by spiritualizing the words that Jesus said, like substituting “poor in spirit” for the poor in actual fact, or “healing for the spiritually broken” rather than healing for those whose spirits have been broken by oppressive human systems. I think you get my point: You can destroy the clear meaning of many Bible passages on deliverance from oppression by turning systemic group oppression into simple personal suffering.

What good news is there for the poor? I just read an article by tax attorney Bob Lord, writing on the web site Inequality that says Amazon chief Jeff Bezos enjoys an hourly increase in his personal wealth of more than Lord can expect to earn in a lifetime. This is not a diatribe against Bezos or the other billionaires in his group---they have undertaken risky and difficult tasks and are being rewarded beyond anyone’s dreams. What’s wrong is the taxation and financial systems creating such extremes through complicit legislation and regulatory decisions made by politicians who know full well the outcomes of their actions upon the poor. The Bible calls it “devising evil by law,” and “decreeing unrighteous decrees,” and pronounces woe on the perpetrators. Not much good news for the poor here!

Good news for the poor would be legislation that no one working  full time should be homeless, hungry, or denied medical care, especially in a land as rich as ours. Yet, as the debate over health care clutters the air waves, we see no real attempt to do what needs to be done---create a single payer health system open to all. It’s a wonder how we can spend trillions fighting hopeless wars in failing countries unable to govern themselves, yet we cannot increase spending for something as needed as universal health care.

Good news for the poor would also create toe-holds so poor people could once again get their feet on the first rungs of the ladder to financial success. This would necessitate adequate education through high school, and also free college for those able to meet basic standards.

And it would destroy forever the stigma now attaching to the status of “poverty-stricken.” Real poverty is not just a shortage of money, but also includes the unavoidable and continuously repeated messages that the poor are less worthy than other people and deserving of their problems. Perhaps a few, but certainly not all.

We’ll continue this next week.