Over the past couple of weeks, I have been asking myself one question quite often: “Is it essential?” When I have to go into the beast that is Walmart. When I drive past Chick-fil-a and see the insanely long line, and then immediately pull in because I got an immediate craving for waffle fries. When I think about visiting my friends or family. In the midst of self-isolation and quarantine, I ask myself if the things that I usually consider normal and everyday things to be essential. Then again, in the world today, I guess everything is essential. Coffeeshops, fast-food, liquor stores, craft stores. For those of you who know me, coffee is one of my favorite things in life. So not being able to go to my favorite shops and get my favorite drinks has been very difficult. If you were to ask me weeks ago, I would totally tell you that coffee is one of the most essential things in my life.
But, as the weeks go by, and the news continues to grow darker and more depressing, life continues to become more fragile. Which means my list of things that I once considered to be essential will grow more precarious. Smaller and smaller this list will go.
And I think that maybe the point.
Some people of the church will say that all of this is a gift. Quite frankly, to some, it really isn’t. Loved ones are in hospital beds fighting for their lives. Nurses and doctors are risking their lives 24/7. Parents have lost jobs for their families. Pantries grow emptier than they usually are. If this period of life is a gift, then it’s a giant bag of coal. Scratch that, it’s a giant bag of coal that got dropped into a pile of crap in the middle of the Enid Landfill (if you know, you know).
It’s so hard to say that this is a gift. But if we really believe that all things work out for our good and God’s purpose (Romans 8:28), then it becomes slightly harder to argue. It’s still hard, but not quite as hard. The main problem then becomes this: what is God’s purpose.
I want to point back to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. An entire passage given by Jesus, the Son of God, centered on anxiety. Jesus commands us to not be anxious, not just in the midst of hard times but in all moments of our lives (Matthew 6:25). Most of us are worried about where we will get food or how we will pay for our bills or if we will have a stable job when things go back to normal. Jesus is addressing those exact worries.
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?
Jesus tells us that even the birds that rely on the air to carry them to their food eventually find what they need. He reminds us that if God takes care of such creatures, He will truly take care of us. Why? Because He considers us to be more valuable!
God finds so much value in us that He is willing to invest everything He has to make sure we are taken care of. In fact, when we grow anxious about what will happen tomorrow or if we will have everything we need, we forget our value. He even calls us out when we forget our value: “O you of little faith” (6:30). Our lack of faith causes us not only to forget our value but also to forget the absolute provision and mercy of God.
31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Jesus says that those who don’t believe in God (“pagans”) run after the anxieties of the world. They get lost chasing after fear and worry. They store up food, so they don’t worry about hunger. The hoard drinks, so they don’t thirst. They fill their closets, so they don’t go out of style. Followers of Christ, and even those who don’t follow Jesus, please listen. Jesus is telling us that these things are essential, but not the most essential. In fact, if we don’t have what is most essential, then the other things don’t become essential. Instead, they just become… well, things.
So, what is most essential? Verse 33 makes it clear. “But seek first his kingdom and righteousness.” As those who don’t believe in God run after their worries, they stockpile their cabinets with toiletries they won’t use. They buy clothes they won’t ever wear. They center their lives on a job that won’t last. They seek those things first. For us, those who believe in God, we should seek Him first. Not our emergency plans, for He is the true emergency plan. Scratch that, he is the original plan. There are no emergencies or second plans with God.
Because what does verse 33 say? It says that we must “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” As I mentioned, it’s not that these things are not essential. Food for our families, money to pay off bills and loans, clothes to stay warm, these things are actually good things and are essential. However, they’re not the most essential. Therefore, God knows that you need the essential things. You need food, water, clothing. And all those things will be given to you, but he is saying that you will forever live in worry, fear, materialism, if you do not consider Him first.
Is your job the most essential? Is your #1 from Chick-fil-a the most essential? Are my favorite coffee drinks the most essential? Honestly still working on that thought. But is anything outside the perfect plan of God going to be more essential? Absolutely not! For those who already follow Jesus, this is a challenge. Right now, people are looking for not just hope in dark times, but they’re looking for the thing that matters the most. Christians, you are to tell them that Jesus matters most! Not just by your words on social media, but by your actions. Are you panicking during all of this? Are you grabbing all of the toilet paper off the shelves? Are you stressing yourself to death about your job? If so, then perhaps reconsider what is most essential to you. Not that preparation is wrong or that your job doesn’t matter; instead, reconsider what matters most. Once you figure that out, shout it from your rooftop that Jesus matters most. He is the most essential! And while you’re up there, take a breath and praise God for giving you everything that you need.