Good Things

This is part of a syndicated series for Lent 2019 with Harvard’s Christian Journal Ichthus. Visit Ichthus at http://www.harvardichthus.org

By Bradley Yam, Saybrook ’21. Bradley is majoring in Ethics, Politics and Economics.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

            I am more blessed than I dare imagine. I am blessed with a loving family. I am blessed with generous, kind, and understanding friends. I am blessed with a place of privilege at Yale. I am blessed with many good things. It is possible that I am blessed with so many things I could hardly list them here even if I wanted to. And yet, why do I still anxiously scramble from place to place, why do I constantly fret and worry about the future, and why am I often dissatisfied with what I have?

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’

            The light shines brighter in the darkness. Water tastes best in the desert. It is easier to choose the better thing amongst bad options, than when surrounded by good but deceptive ones. Christianity is often chalked up to a kind of asceticism; a denial of the self for the sake of heavenly rewards. If this is true, then it is only the most basic of truths, for what becomes of the heavenly rewards when heaven must eventually meet earth? Must they not also incarnate, as our Lord Jesus has?

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

            St Matthew’s formulation seems superficially transactional. If we seek first the Kingdom, the things of God, then we will get everything else we want. Let’s disabuse ourselves of this notion. If we seek the Kingdom for the sake of these other good things, then we are actually seeking these other good things, and instrumentalizing the Kingdom. In this case, we get neither the Kingdom nor the good things. To truly receive good things, we must earnestly seek the Kingdom for its goodness itself.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”

            The Kingdom seems abstract enough, but perhaps this is how we tell when we have found it: when our attention on the Kingdom is healthy, then we will suddenly become alive to the true goodness of the good things in our lives. C.S. Lewis, in his essay “First Things”, said: “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things.” We seek the Kingdom because its goodness shines forth from all the good things that are already around us, and by seeking it, we receive the ability to enjoy the good things we already possess. These good things shine in their roles as sub-luminaries, declaring and announcing the final, ultimate, singular, perfect Good: The Good King himself, returning to reclaim his Kingdom.

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