Food For Thought: Focusing on His Kingdom in This Life
We as Americans are taught from an early age that we can be anything we want. Do anything we set our mind to. Be the best at everything we can. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as it aligns with what the God says. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10) This verse has been a governing verse for my life, as I’ve grown up and continue to grow. The caution here, however, is to find the right balance of performing our work in this life to the best of our abilities, without losing sight of what we should be working and striving for: The Kingdom. Materialism and “stuff” are ever so sneaky in motivation for us here on earth. We get caught up in the rat-race and can tend focus so much on the world we are in, as opposed to the world we are meant to go to.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:20) It is easy for us as Americans to acquire possessions, i.e. money, cars, houses, clothes. We work hard and are financially rewarded, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. Jesus is telling us here, though, that our focus should not be solely on investing in things of this world but to instead invest in His world. I heard it said one time by a preacher… to think of this as Jesus providing us a heads up into the spiritual stock market. Imagine if we could go back in time to the early 90s when the stock market was about to take off, and our friends were looking at buying stock in a booming energy company named Enron. We’d be able to warn them! We’d steer them to something else, say Apple which at the time was valued under a dollar – in turn creating great wealth for those we advised. I like to think of it in a similar manner with our spiritual focus and investing. Jesus knows where the “market” is going, and he’s telling us that it’s not in this life. If we are able to balance our motivation in this life to live for Jesus, and be the good steward of life that He has granted us, we will be in turn investing in Heaven.
Right after Jesus instructs on where to lay up our treasures, he says, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21) The “heart” is referred to over and over throughout the Bible as the governing director of ourselves. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23) What does it say about us and our hearts, when we get caught up in creating our own “kingdoms” here on earth? Acquiring things, building earthly successes, and solely focusing on those things prove where our hearts are leading us. A kingdom built here around our earthly successes is like the story Jesus tells of the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. Where we spend our time, effort, our money is in direct relationship to our governing spiritual director, the heart. The heart is the underlying decision maker in our lives. I personally use this thought process to self-examine, when I feel caught up in the day-to-day stresses and desires. Is my heart directing me to build upon the sand or is it leading me to build up my kingdom on The Rock? Why am I working this hard? What is my true motivation? Why am I stressed out? These are a few questions I like to ponder on, while working to align my heart on a regular basis.
Lastly, contentment plays a pivotal role in our heart’s desires to store up treasures. Paul says in the letter to the Philippians, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both having abundance and suffering need.” (Philippians 4:11-12)
In today’s day and age, we’re surrounded by pressures to gain and acquire great things. A bigger house, a newer car, nicer clothes, a better education, a more prestigious career, etc. Sometimes it just requires us taking a step back to have perspective on what we already have and what has been given by God to us. We are but stewards, given a life to live for Jesus. All that we have and have accomplished in this life is to be for God! Jesus is telling us throughout, that we will never be satisfied and filled by striving after things of this world and life. The writer of Ecclesiastes expresses similar notions throughout the book. Paul has learned this, and when he says that he has learned to be content, it is through his life being devoted and filled by Jesus, our ultimate treasure. The old adage of “count your blessings” is ever applicable and is a personal staple when examining my heart’s desires.
All in all, we must be continuously evaluating our heart and our desires to ensure that what we are working and striving for in this life is setting us up for success in our eternal kingdom. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33)