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Seek First the Kingdom

Matthew 6:24-34

Rev. Andrew Eckert

15th after Trinity
St. Paul's Lutheran Church  
Wellston, Oklahoma

Sun, Sep 12, 2010 

The text is from the Holy Gospel, Saint Matthew chapter six, especially these words: "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well."

The following sermon largely draws from sermons by Rev. Kurt Hering and Doctor Martin Luther.

For at least a couple of generations now, many pastors have been taught by the practical, seeker sensitive teachers and leaders among us to soft sell the Law and the Gospel lest they offend anyone and thus lose them to the abyss of hell.

That simply cannot and will not happen.  God will not lose a single one of those whose names are written in His Book of Life.  Souls are saved precisely by the bold preaching of Law and Gospel, because the Law sears the sinful flesh, and the Gospel soothes the contrite soul.  It is not a preacher's business to flatter, amuse, or market people into heaven.  It is their call to proclaim the Word for what it is and let the Holy Spirit condemn or console according to God's perfect discernment and heart for what the sinner truly needs.

Pastors are not called to be salesmen of salvation, public relations consultants for Christ, or corporate builders of His Church.  Christ does not need or want that.  The Holy Spirit is a capable builder of Christ's Church.

But we Lutherans seem to be suffering from a desire to embrace virtually anything for the sake of "growing the church."  The people of God are persuaded into believing that it is not enough for the Baptized Christian to exercise his vocation in faith as the child of God according to the Ten Commandments, and instead must do something "special" to glorify God and win souls for Christ.

Let the numbers come or not based upon our faithful preaching and hearing of the Word of God for the forgiveness of sins.

Although concern for filling pews sounds loving toward the lost, hidden behind it often lurks greed.  A pastor who preaches to full pews can count on a bigger paycheck.  People in a larger church can count on greater security and prosperity.  So we are tempted to avoid offense and keep others attending in any way possible.

Doctor Martin Luther spoke of these things in his sermon on Matthew 6:

"Among the vices there is none that opposes the Gospel as terribly as does greed.  As soon as a preacher makes it his aim to get rich, he stops performing his office the way he should.  The concern about making a living traps his heart the way a snare does.  He cannot teach or denounce in the right places or in the right manner.  He is concerned about losing popularity and friendship among those from whom he can get it.  Whoever wants to do his duty as a preacher and perform his office faithfully must tell the truth fearlessly.  He must denounce anyone that needs to be denounced-great or small, rich or poor or powerful, friend or foe.  Greed refuses to do this, for it is afraid that if it offends the bigwigs or good friends, it will be unable to find bread.  So greed keeps quiet.

"It is the same way with the common crowd.  They should listen to the Word of God and help to advance the kingdom of God, each individual in his own life and station.  But if they listen to greed, they refuse to suffer need for the sake of the Gospel.  Above all, they see to it that they have plenty and their belly is taken care of, regardless of whether there is enough for the Gospel or not.  So they scrape and scratch, getting along as well as they can.  They give the preachers nothing; in fact, they deprive them of what they do have.

"Christ the Lord gives a warning to those that are His.  He prescribes a good and potent medicine called 'seeking the kingdom of God.' Taking this medicine makes anxiety unnecessary, but it makes it possible for us to have enough, in fact, a treasure greater and more excellent than the one that Mammon can give us.

"By these words, therefore, Christ would like to wake us up and say: 'Seek for the treasure called "the kingdom of God."  Do not be anxious about the perishable treasure which moth and rust consume.  You have a much different treasure in heaven.  This is the kind of treasure that will sustain you forever, and it cannot perish or be taken away.  Because the treasure you cling to is an enduring one, you will endure, too, even though you may not have a single penny from the world.'

"What the kingdom of God is, to put it most briefly, means believing in Jesus Christ.  In this kingdom He is the Head and the only King, in whom and through whom we have everything; whoever abides in it cannot be harmed by any sin, death, or misfortune, but has eternal life, joy, and salvation.

"Now, what does it mean to 'seek' this kingdom?  What is the method of reaching it, and what way or path leads to it?  Here one points in one direction, another in another direction.  For there are many ways, but they are all departures from that one way of believing in Christ and practicing and applying the Gospel, to which faith clings.  This involves growing and being strengthened at heart through preaching, listening, reading, singing, meditating, and every other possible way.  For this they are willing to risk everything they have, and they would be ready to lose it rather than to surrender the Word.

"But our condition in the kingdom of Christ is half sin and half holiness.  What there is in us that belongs to faith and to Christ is completely pure and perfect, since it is not our own but Christ's, who is ours through faith and who lives and works in us.  But what is still our own is completely sinful.  Yet under Christ it is concealed and blotted out through the forgiveness of sins.  Daily it is put to death through the same grace of the Spirit, until we have died to this life altogether."

For this reason Christ suffered and died.  He gave His life for us poor sinners so that, as we trust in His sacrifice for us, our trust will never be disappointed.  His Cross, will keep us safe through life and death, safe from hell and satan, and bring us finally to eternal blessedness.  Therefore, the Cross is our treasure, and Christ is our gold and silver, who will lead us even out of our own graves to join Him in the resurrection life.

May the Lord keep us steadfastly in this faith forever, to His own glory.  Amen.

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