Matthew (Part 09) - Pursuing the Kingdom
The next (and last) major section of Christ’s mountain sermon begins in summary fashion. We are told in verse 19-20 that we should not lay up treasures on earth, but rather lay them up in heaven. By now we should recognize that the heaven-earth antithesis speaks of the heart attitude difference between life lived for God and life lived for self. This is not a command revealing to us that savings accounts are sin or that spirituality is equated with how much you place in the offering plate. There is no conflict between this passage and exhortations to stewardship. Christ is also not preaching a Gnostic gospel of spirit goodness versus material evil or even a platonic movement past physical concerns. The Kingdom concept is built on one major idea—those of the Kingdom belong to Christ. Therefore, conduct your life according to that focus.
Verses 22-23 use the metaphor of the eye through which light enters the body. A good eye (right focus) will allow light (right conduct) to come in. We cannot maintain both God and some other interest as primary motivation for living (6:24). One must be dominant.
Christ next seems to be answering any objections that might be raised to a life of focus on God rather than self. One objection is that physical concerns do exist. We need food, shelter, and clothing merely to survive. Surely those basics of survival must be of primary concern, right? No, Christ answers. We belong to God. God will take care of those things. Look at the birds and the flowers of the field. They belong to God, and God cares for them.
The next few verses seem out of place. Chapter 7 begins with a discussion about judging others. How is this concerned with the immediately preceding discussion of not being anxious about tomorrow (6:34) or the whole thrust of the message concerning Kingdom focus on belonging to God rather than living for self interest? To assume the judging in 7:1 refers to salvation is simply wrong. The use of “brother” in verse 3 argues sufficiently against that. So then, is Christ saying we should ignore sin in the lives of fellow Christians? Doesn’t Paul tell us to rebuke as well as exhort (2 Tim 4:2)? Certainly, we are to identify and warn against clear sin and rebellion in the lives of Christians. Clear sins are those identified by the Word of God as such. But in this sermon Christ has been teaching how pursuit of the Kingdom is to be conducted. It is with reference to that pursuit that we are to refrain from judging. Surely we may discuss with each other the benefits, appropriateness, and risks of certain actions, but as we pursue Christ and his Kingdom, we must be careful to avoid labeling other Christians as evil who conclude differently from us how to pursue Christ. This fits in well with Paul’s comments in Romans 14 about being convinced in our own minds as we seek to honor the Lord.
Do we see clearly enough to spend our time arguing against how others pursue Christ? No, Jesus tells us. We have plenty to work on in our own lives. We do not act conservatively by separation from other Christians (based on judging them) for the way in which they pursue the Kingdom. Maintaining unity is the conservative action. Only when clear indication that the gospel itself is threatened or that clear rebellion is exhibited should separation be considered.
Just as pursuit of the Kingdom by Christians should not be judged, so too Kingdom ideals should not be looked for, reviewed, and judged in non-Christians. Our pearls in Kingdom living are our pearls. The “dogs” and “pigs” outside the Kingdom cannot possibly live by Kingdom ideals because Kingdom-living motivation rests in the understanding that we belong to God (7:6).
Therefore, Christ concludes that pursuit of the Kingdom is our full focus. If we have need, we do not set the pursuit aside while tending to self interest. We go to our Father. We make our requests known to him. And we continue, confident that he will supply all our needs.
The conclusion of the sermon tells us to transfer selfish interests into the outworking of love. We do for others what the earthly-minded would do for themselves. We must ensure that our pursuit rests firmly and entirely in the gospel. False prophets are to be identified and rejected. We build the Kingdom on the rock—the gospel of Christ.