Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first.
I can’t recall where I heard that, but I appreciate the sentiment. Wouldn’t you hate to deny yourself to get in shape and then have a truck run over you?.
Seriously, though, if you have five things on your to-do list for the day, which one do you get done first. I recall a grade-school teacher I had who always did math first thing. We thought it was because she wanted to torture us. Instead, I learned much later, math was her least favorite subject. She figured that if she got the worst thing for the day done, then everything else would be easier.
That’s one method for planning your priorities. Another popular one is to do the most important thing first. That, I think, is what lies behind what I take to be the single most important verse for Christian living, Matthew 6:33:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
Lest you think that I’m an anti-evangelical heretic who doesn’t put John 3:16 at the top of the hit parade, let me explain the way I view the act of Christianity. To my mind, this thing has two parts:
- Becoming a Christian–which is where John 3:16 comes in, and
- Being a Christian, where Matthew 6:33 holds sway.
It is vital that we become believers in Jesus, but it is also important that we live out our Christianity. How do we do that? We put first things first. We live by faith by seeking God’s kingdom first.
Matthew 6:33 tells us that life is not uncertain and that we need not eat dessert first. It tells us instead to cut God a big slice of that lemon meringue pie right up front and then trust that something even better will come our way. Maybe it won’t be lemon meringue pie. Maybe it won’t even be dessert, but it will be precisely what we need and even more than we need. It will be better than what we would have gotten had we grabbed the whole pie for ourselves.
It takes confidence for us to seek God’s kingdom ahead of our own kingdom. We have to truly believe, to truly rely on His goodness and His faithfulness. It takes the sort of belief that is at the heart of that verse I sidestepped earlier.
Believing in Jesus, in the sense it is intended in John 3:16 involves a great deal more than just an intellectual assent. I believe in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve been there a couple of times. I trust that if I drove north on I-29, I’d get to that city, but my belief does not mean that I depend on Omaha in the slightest. My belief in my home town is greater, but if Independence, Missouri were to suddenly announce its closing, I could still function. John 3:16-level belief is more.
And so is the action behind Matthew 6:33. It’s an act of faith to put God first, to set aside my priorities for God’s. It means eating dessert last with confidence that there’s something better in store. Christian life, you see, is sweet!