Scrolling through the text messages I send to my wife, I realize there is a constant theme connecting about half of our communication: food. “What are we having tonight?”, “Where do you want to go to eat?”, “Do we have any dinner plans?”, “What are you making?”, “I think I will have…” I can only imagine if the Lord tarries for a few hundred more years, and they discover my phone in an archaeological dig, they will no doubt conclude that I was one of the hungriest people on earth. The thing is I’m not. In fact, thank the Lord, I’ve never had to worry about a meal in my life, and truth be told, it probably would benefit me if I skipped a few meals. So why am I (and so many others) obsessed with food, or clothing, or money, or all of these things, the very things God assures over and over again he will provide what we need in exact proportions?
Today’s reading, Matthew 6, is a continuation of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus takes the time to teach us how to pray, and then gives us the appropriate perspective on our food and stuff, to make sure our priorities are straight so our pursuits are fruitful. How do we know what our priorities should be? Some say that the model prayer that Jesus gives is also a priority list (Matt 6:9-13). If this is true, then it is later confirmed when Jesus says “Seek FIRST His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33). Kingdom first. Everything else, don’t sweat.
This reminds me of a recent discussion we have been having about theme in my classroom. In fiction, the theme is the single most important factor that guides your story. Everything else is of significantly lesser importance. The setting could be the United States, another country, space, or complete fantasy. Your characters could be people, animals, aliens, or inanimate objects. The conflict can be internal or external. The main idea in these thoughts: you can tell the same story with a variance of characters, settings, conflicts, but the theme, or the central message, remains the same because it controls everything else.
When the theme of our lives becomes food and stuff, we become literal or figurative “packrats.” Our pantries begin to overflow, we save for every eventuality and rainy day, and we have closets full of clothing for every season and occasion. To what purpose? While it might be unwise to go to the grocery store to buy a single day’s worth of food, to not acknowledge retirement, or our only shoes to be flip-flops in Minnesota, is this really the side where most of us err?
The theme controlling our story should singly be the Kingdom of God. It should be the driving force, controlling our story. It doesn’t matter who we are. It doesn’t matter where we live. It doesn’t matter the challenge we face. We know the theme. It is the very reason Paul says he “can do all things through Christ who gives him strength” because rich or poor, here or there, famous or obscure, those are just the “all these things” of the story (Phi 4:13). It is true that each day has enough trouble of its own, so don’t worry about tomorrow (Matt 6:34). The sun will rise. The birds will fly. The flowers will grow. You will get your food and stuff WHEN you acknowledge first, the Kingdom of God. Knowing this, use the details of your story – picking out your clothes, sitting down to eat, or making a purchase, to find a way to acknowledge, thank, and share God for or with your food and stuff.