For the past few years, I have asked God to underline for me a portion of Scripture which will act as an anchor for me in the year ahead. In 2020, that anchor came from Psalm 112, especially verses 4-6, talking of having a steadfast heart and no fear of bad news, which certainly carried me through the very strange year that 2020 turned out to be! In 2021, the verse that upheld me was God’s promise in Isaiah 43:18-19 of doing a new thing and making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
As we prepare to enter 2023, a very familiar verse has jumped out of the pages of the Bible to me: ‘Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (Matt 6:33)
This verse is part of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, and comes in a section (Matt 6:25-34) where Jesus urges us not to worry, reminding us of God’s love and care for the natural world and reassuring us that if He cares for birds and flowers, He cares for us so much more. Our part is not to worry but to trust Him, and above all to live lives which are oriented around Him, with Jesus at the centre. We are to put God first and do what He wants (Matt 6:33, CEV). We are to set our hearts on the kingdom and His goodness (Matt 6:33, J. B. Phillips). This is a verse with a direct command (put God first) and a wonderful promise (all the things we need, food and clothing, our everyday human needs, will be given to us by God’s great bounty and grace.)
Many of us like the promise of provision, but not the direct command to put God first. It’s not easy to give away some of our income to God when we’re struggling financially, but if we do this, we will find provision does come. It’s not always to be easy to be generous to others through giving food or clothing, but again, God is no man’s debtor. If we seek His kingdom and obey Him, He promises to look after our basic human needs. Malachi 3:8-12 makes this very clear.
The Message version of Matt 6:33 brings out these truths in a slightly different form: ‘Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provision. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.’
To steep something means to soak it in a liquid, to saturate it with a liquid. Our lives must be steeped, soaked, saturated in God. The blessing of God is freely available to us, but we have to follow the order of this verse. What we do in seeking, honouring and obeyig God is what we can do. The blessing, the provision, the everyday human needs and concerns which so often dominate our thoughts are then (and only then) met by God.
Put God first. Do what He wants. Then you don’t have to worry, for God is able to do immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine for you. (Eph 3:20)