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Matthew 6:19-34 - Homilies By Marcus Dods

Sermon on the mount: 5. Thought for the morrow.

There has been set before us a righteousness, perfect in its outward expression and in its root, and if now we ask—How are we to attain this? we are told—By loving it. That is the only way. "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Your likings are the eyes of your inner man; if they are rightly placed your whole life will be right. Just as a man has an organ to guide him in the physical world, so he has an organ for his guiding in the moral and spiritual world. If the eye is sound, the whole body is full of light, that is, every member receives through the eye all the light it requires. But if the eye be unsound, no other organ can play its part. It is vain for you to give the blind man more light; it is not more light but other eyes he needs. And so, says our Lord, it is vain to profess that your heart is where in fact you see no treasure at all. Rather humbly own that you do not see as you ought, and seek to have your vision cleared by him "who came into this world that they that see not might see." In the remainder of the passage our Lord addresses himself to those who, though not drawn by the attractiveness of the heavenly treasure, yet wish to have it along with the earthly. He had seen how the fear of poverty influenced men, and seeks, by a variety of arguments, to root out undue thought for the morrow.

I. IF GOD GIVES YOU LIFE , HE WILL ALSO GIVE YOU SUITABLE FOOD AND CLOTHING . The greater gift implies the less. The heavenly Father who could produce so marvellous a work as the body, and who could originate life, has certainly power for the common, everyday achievement of providing you with food and clothing.

II. YOU ARE MORE VALUABLE IN GOD 'S ESTIMATION THAN THE LOWER ANIMALS , and, if even they are well provided for, much more will you be cared for. The strength of the argument lies in two points. First, we are better equipped for providing against the future than the birds are, and should therefore be more free from care. No doubt their cheerfulness arises from ignorance, but our ability to look forward is abused if it only makes us despondent and fearful. Second, it is your heavenly Father who feeds them. The other creatures are only a kind of step-children. And if God delights in the happiness of myriads of creatures who cannot know and thank him, is it justifiable that we should in any circumstances question his desire to bless us? Clearly this amounts to an assertion of the doctrine of special or particular providence, and there is no one who may not from our Lord's words draw encouragement to expect providential care and intervention.

III. UNDUE SOLICITUDE ABOUT THE FUTURE DOES NO GOOD . "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit to his stature?" There is a legitimate and necessary consideration of the future with which our Lord has no quarrel. Reckless improvidence is a fault no less than over-providence. The taking thought which our Lord rebukes is a vain inoperative brooding over possible disasters—a brooding to which the mind returns for the very reason that nothing is effected by it; were anything effected by it, it would cease.

IV. EACH DAY HAS SUFFICIENT BURDEN OF ITS OWN . "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." If the evil that should be met to-day is not to lie over and follow on into to-morrow, then your whole strength is needed for immediate duty. You must adopt the great military rule if you are to be successful; you must break up your life into small portions, and conquer in detail. The best preparation for to-morrow is to do the duty of to-day. This is a great practical rule which, if followed, eases life of most of its burden. For what causes anxiety is commonly something that has not happened, which belongs to to-morrow rather than to to-day. Are you sufficient for the duty of today? Then be satisfied, and leave to-morrow till it comes. Learn to live one day at a time.

But all these considerations only serve to lead up to the great precept, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." All men would be willing to make the kingdom of God the second thing, but each man would like to choose his own first thing. Every man has some first object, it may be life, or honour, self-respect, or a pure conscience which he would rather preserve than anything else. But the demand here made is no more than saying we are moral creatures, made in God's image; and morality, if not supreme, is not morality. To put it in the second place is to annul it. Further, we all admire the men who have conspicuously practised this precept; who have shown themselves superior to the world, that they might be free to find the truth or to relieve the miseries of their fellow-men. Such men have shown us bow independent of the world a man of free spirit can be, and how he can give himself to the highest work of man as freely and effectively here and now as in any conceivable world. Greatness of character in this respect is nothing else than greatness of love. Practically this precept is in most cases reversed. We must secure food and raiment; we shall welcome righteousness afterwards. The earthly is the essential, the heavenly the supplementary. Our earthly interests are so pressing, we must in the first place put them on a satisfactory basis, and we do not recognize the highest conceivable morality as that which can alone put our business on a satisfactory footing. But righteousness is not to be postponed to anything else; and if the spirit of Christ cannot be carried into the forms which business has taken, these forms must go. Those who would postpone the kingdom of heaven to other interests should consider whether it is likely that, after they shall have lived for the world for a few years longer, they will be more inclined than now to seek the kingdom of God.—D.

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