Recently while in Montgomery for the Faulkner Lectures I was reminded of the historical importance of that city to the struggle for civil rights in our country. The home of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks stands for freedom to a significant portion of our population.
This trip just happened to correspond to my study of Matthew 6:25-34. This is the “do not worry” section the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus confronts us to seek first the kingdom. Probably like you, I have read and reread these verses many times, but in my latest reading I thought of Montgomery. I thought of freedom.
Most of those in the original audience listening to Christ on that hillside by the Sea of Galilee that day were not free. For their entire life they had only known the oppression of the Roman Empire. They were poor and intergraded into an empire system that wanted and needed to keep them that way. Unlike now, there was little chance of changing this status. Worry was a way of life. It had to be. They were enslaved to it, literally often not knowing if there would be a next meal. Fear was their constant companion.
In steps Jesus into this defeated culture with his radical message. Throughout the entire sermon he is offering empowerment and hope to people used to neither. And he is offering freedom.
Consider it, in his kingdom description. The King of this kingdom, the same one who nurtures and provides for even the minutest parts of his kingdom, offers to take care of you- you who are much more significant to him. Practically speaking, he will clothe and feed you and provide for your daily necessities. No need to be enslaved to the worry cycle. No need to fret about what might or might not happen tomorrow. In this kingdom you are spared that. In this kingdom you are set free to pursue to discover and embrace the very essence of this kingdom- the righteous values of the King.
Freedom! The tyranny of the empire is overthrown within hearts. Everything changes. Days are no longer just something to survive, but something to use to accomplish kingdom purposes. Fear no longer grips you. Even work looks different. Incredibly enough, even suffering takes on a new meaning. There is just no reason to sweat the small stuff in the kingdom. God has your back. What a feeling of empowerment and release!
While there are plenty of monuments in Montgomery celebrating the price paid for freedom during the struggle for civil rights, the monument God wants us to build to discover the freedom found in the kingdom is in our hearts. This is where the kingdom lives and thrives. Seek that kingdom first there and “all these things will be added unto you.”