The upside-down kingdom
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 NAS)
By Mark Kelly
When I was a kid, I used to hang my head off the couch and imagine the upside-down room was rightside-up, so the floor became the ceiling. How does that glass up there on the coffee table stay put?
You probably never did that, did you? If you had, it would have been great preparation for living in the Kingdom of God. Everything there is impossibly upside down too.
Matthew 6:24-34 records one of Jesus’ disorienting perspectives: “Don’t worry about everyday life, whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.” (NLT) Don’t we need to make those things a top priority? Who doesn’t worry about that, especially these days? And here’s Jesus saying that people who approach life that way are outside the Kingdom?
The Lord instructs us to focus our best attention and energies on seeking God’s kingdom and his “righteousness.” I know we aren’t big on word studies, but ‘righteousness’ translates a Greek word that means integrity or virtue — or justice. In modern Bible versions, it’s almost always translated ‘righteousness.’ Evangelical Christians are big on personal righteousness — on social justice, not so much. If you want an eye-opener about how dramatically upside-down the Kingdom is, compared to our middle-class “Christian” lives today, read through the New Testament and substitute ‘justice’ for ‘righteousness’ wherever you find it.
In Matthew 6:33, make that trade-out and you get “Seek first his kingdom and his justice.” What does that mean? What does social justice have to do with the Gospel? Was Jesus seriously saying that caring for the poor and oppressed should be top priority for his followers?
Are you getting that “head hanging off the couch” feeling yet?
Jesus was very seriously saying that his people are the ones for whom the pursuit of justice matters more than “daily bread.” That’s why, when the “sheep and goats” get processed for heaven or hell in Matthew 25, the sheep who had helped “the least of these” go to heaven — and the goats who didn’t, don’t.
If being a citizen of God’s kingdom and going to heaven has something to do with making a top priority of justice for the poor and oppressed, then a lot of us need to do some serious thinking.
A great place to do that is on your couch — with your head hanging upside down.
Mark Kelly is editor of Multiply Justice, located on the Internet at www.multiplyjustice.net. Copyright © 2012 Kainos Press