I call you out, Jason! You missed church Sunday. You didn’t fill your appointed role in children’s ministry. And why? What was more important that playing some silly game in the large group? You were sitting in the woods prepared to blow the head off of a perfectly innocent tom turkey. You’re on a fast track to perdition, my friend. Haven’t you read this:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
Let’s continue our examination of Matthew 6:33 with a look at the word “first.” I love the Greek word that is translated as “first” here. It’s proton. Honestly, doesn’t that sound like it ought to be a minor superhero appearing in the next series of Marvel movies? But seriously, proton, in Greek, means pretty much what “first” does in English. For something to be meaningfully first, then something else must be second and third and so on.
A few years ago, I ran my first 10K race. It was a fairly small affair in Odessa, Missouri, and most of the participants opted for the 5K course. But not me. I ran out from the town, onto several miles of gravel roads and then came back. I came in first for my age and gender group. And how many men finished after me? Exactly zero. I was the one and only entrant in his fifties and the dead-last man in the field. The only woman in the race came across a few minutes behind me and won first among women. Cool.
Understandably, I don’t treasure the medal I received for that race. When you’re both first and last, it’s not something on which to brag. I’m much more proud of a second-place finish in a much larger race.
When Jesus tells us to seek God’s kingdom first, he’s not saying that we should seek it only. When I went to a Kansas City Chiefs football game with my son last fall (and missed church in the process, I must add), I wasn’t seeking God’s kingdom. When I bought a new “Browning” ball cap yesterday, it didn’t do the slightest to seek God’s kingdom. Happily, I’m comfortable in believing that so long as I seek the kingdom first, then I’m doing right.
Of course, this sort of thought process can lead us into self-delusion. What if I buy season tickets to the Chiefs and miss eight Sundays? Is that okay? What if I spend my money on a lot of frivolous things and am not able to tithe or do other God-honoring things? What if my golf game gets in the way of my ministry game?
First is a pretty easy thing to define in a race, but it is much more slippery in the complexities of life. Still, my wife knows when I’m not putting her first. I know when she isn’t putting me first. How much more does God know that He’s not first? And deep down, I think that generally we all know when our secondary interests are creeping into first place. We just don’t like to admit it.
So I suppose I can allow Jason to take a Sunday to hunt turkeys without assuming that sin is going to gobble him up.