Kingdom of the Wise
Old Testament Reading- Proverbs 3:5-26
New Testament Reading- Matthew 11:25-30
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -July 31, 2022
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matt. 6:33
These are the words of Jesus to all those listening to what we now know as the ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ Seek first God’s kingdom? What does that mean? I don’t want to seek God’s kingdom first; I need to find what I want first. I want a big house and a big yard, a nice car, and much more. The nicest clothes, the best cell phone, the nicest, newest furniture and appliances, you know, the basics that everyone needs. Aren’t we all entitled to those things? What do these things have to do with the kingdom of God anyway?
Want and worry, worry and want, it seems like the new American way.
Want and worry, worry and want, it seems like the new American way. Then when we don’t get what we want, we become angry about it. “The government is against me, that’s why I can’t get what I want.” “My employer doesn’t pay me enough to buy what I want, I mean, it shouldn’t matter that I don’t have any job skills, I should be making top dollar because I’m worth it just being me.” “How am I ever supposed to be able to game online if I can’t afford the television with the best graphics and sound card available, it’s just not fair.” “You’ll never catch me driving a little four-cylinder car, I’d rather walk than drive something that small.”
Suzie was a high achiever; she was the valedictorian of her high school class and graduated Summa cum laude from her university. She achieved these distinctions, yes, because she was smart, but also because she was a hard worker and had a competitive nature. The hard-working part of her was good, and the competitive nature also helped her tremendously, but it also started to get her into trouble later in life. Suzie tended to want what everyone else had, even though, she didn’t need it. For example, Suzie always drove a car, but a coworker bought a sporty new Bronco with an off-road package because she and her husband liked to go camping, which required some off-road driving. Suzie couldn’t stand it when this woman would come to work and tell everyone how happy she was with the new Ford, she was green with envy. She thought to herself, “Why should she get to drive that? I have a better position here at work than her.” Soon, Suzie went out and bought herself a brand-new Land Rover, complete with the off-road package and all the bells and whistles.
Funny thing is, she didn’t even like it.
It was too big, she wasn’t used to that and didn’t like how the larger sized vehicle was harder to park, and she never camped out, in fact, you wouldn’t catch Suzie dead in a tent. When she went to work though, she loved the attention she received for owning it, and more importantly, she loved that she stole the thunder from her coworker. The older Suzie got though, the harder it was to keep up with all that one upmanship. Soon it became a burden to be number one, especially with all the medical bills. As the years wore on, Suzie wasn’t getting any younger, but her coworkers were and every couple years she would have a lift here and a tuck there, wrinkles stretched, and blemishes cut out. That competitive spirit that had helped her in life was now her biggest enemy and it had also invited a new friend to the party, envy, not a good pair of friends to have.
Jim was raised in a strict religious home, and he had the great gift of obedience, never asking questions, but doing as he was told. He was taught that only those who do everything exactly as God requires go to heaven, slip up just once and you are out. No dancing, no music, (except old hymns), no alcohol, no expensive food, no laughing, and no fun. If any of these laws were broken it could mean expulsion from the family and the church, and without the family and the church, you were nothing.
Jim never read the Bible, it was never given to the members of the church, just dictated to them by the pastor, who, in Jim’s eyes was great, and a righteous man of God. Jim learned to be fearful of God and weary of anyone outside the church. He loved to tell the younger people how devout he was and how he was going to heaven. He would list to them
all the rules they would have to follow, or they would be not only thrown out by the church, but by God as well, never reaching heaven. Jim had been given a great gift, never rebelling from anything, doing as he was told, but soon this gift turned him into a self-righteous zealot who wouldn’t have even walked across the street to help an outsider or anyone he deemed as a sinner. Jim had become the judge, jury, and executioner all wrapped up in one holy wrapper.
Leonard was a simple guy, a nice guy. He was given the gift of friendliness, as Leonard was liked by everyone. He never ruffled a feather, never caused a stir, never spoke his mind, and would walk ten miles out of his way to avoid conflict of any kind. Leonard excelled in life and the workplace not because he was particularly gifted at anything he did, but mostly because people liked him and would take care of him, even by pulling strings if needs be. As I said Leonard was a nice guy and everyone liked him, but he had one flaw to his friendliness, he was a follower. Now being a follower isn’t always a bad thing, but as I said, Leonard was always friendly and would never speak his mind or go against anyone.
Soon this got him into trouble because some of the people that had pulled strings for him came calling on a return favor. These men were not nice people, they weren’t the drug dealing type, but they were criminals. They were the kind of guys that don’t look like bad
guys but were rotten inside. These men were white collar criminals, and they were now needing Leonard’s help in covering up some paperwork that existed that needed to be replaced and then destroyed or they would go to jail.
Leonard had never felt so much stress in his whole life, if he helped them, he could go to jail too, but they had done so much for him, how could he not help them?
These people are all in a quandary. What are they to do? What would you do? You’ve probably been asking yourselves that already. Life is full of these types of dilemmas and maybe you have known people with these issues, or maybe you have been in these situations yourselves. Regardless we can always go to Scripture for answers, as God tells us that for Him there is nothing new under the sun.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, is a well-known expression that would have helped all three of the people we are talking about today. All three of these people have already made decisions that are irreversible.
Yes, Suzie could sell the Land Rover that she doesn’t like anyway and recoup some money, but she cannot effectively reverse cosmetic surgery or reverse the aging process in any other way.
Jim could find a Bible and read it himself, thereby cross-checking what Scripture says verses what the pastor says, but he cannot easily undo what he has himself already wrongly taught others.
Leonard could not help his so-called friends and run the risk of getting hurt, or he could help them and run the risk of going to prison, but prevention could have saved them before it all started.
Proverbs 3:5-26 tells us,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.”
Seek first the kingdom of God.
A large part of the kingdom of God contains wisdom, there is none wiser than the Almighty and it is He that gives wisdom as a gift.
Wisdom would have shown Suzie that there was more to life than always being the best and that to be the best comes with a price. It would have been wise if she had been content with the great gifts God had given her and for her to use those gifts in service to others.
Wisdom would have shown Jim that if the pastor was so solid in his message, he would have sourced his material and let his congregants read from the Bible themselves. Jim then would have had something to compare what Scripture did and didn’t say.
Wisdom would have shown Leonard that it is better to be a peacemaker than a peacekeeper. In always holding your tongue, even against what you know is wrong, you keep the peace, but you never correct a problem that will only grow stronger until it becomes a problem that cannot easily be corrected. Nip it in the bud, as we say, stopping a bad branch from forming, thereby allowing for the best growth of all the other branches.
"...it is better to be a peacemaker than a peacekeeper," ~ Pastor Henry Rafferty
This world is tough, and we see it in just these three examples today. These are not uncommon issues to have and even though prevention is better than cure it is never too late with God.
People are great at heaping burdens onto each other for all kinds of reasons. Guilt, shame, power plays, corrupted versions of love, fear, and envy are all reasons that we burden each other with every day, but Jesus shows us another way and tells us that when we seek God with all our hearts, all our minds, and all our souls we will find Him and His kingdom.
Christ gives us hope in His prayer in Matthew 11:25-30,
“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do. “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
That is the curative property we can be sure to receive for all that we have done wrong, that Jesus understands our hardships and our sorrows. He understands that life can make us feel hopeless often. Christ wants us to know that no matter what, it is never too late, and that no sin is too great for God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.
As I have struggled through life, I have found two things constant:
My wants always get me into hardship and pain, and...
The more I let go and let God direct my life, I succeed and find that the peace that only God can offer heals me from my self-inflicted wounds.
What a wondrous thing this is and what a gift is God’s wisdom to be passed down to someone as lowly as I.
I find strength in His strength, and comfort in His embrace.
I find direction in following His straight paths, as I know He would never guide me in wrong ways.
I find that because I trust in Him completely, I don’t worry near as much as I did when I didn’t know Him, and I am able to sleep soundly because of it as well.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life. This too will be yours, if you seek for Him and His kingdom with all that you are.
Thanks be to God. Amen.