THE GREATEST HUMAN NEED
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Jesus uttered this profound statement, and it is recorded in Matthew 6:33. The Sermon on the Mount was not given to tell lost people how to become Christians, but to tell saved people how to stay saved. People cannot learn how to become Christians in the Sermon on the Mount, but the children of God can learn how to conduct themselves in God's family, the church. When a lost man is asked if he is a Christian, he has been heard to say, “Well, sir, I make no pretensions to being religious; I never darken the door of a church building, but I live according to the Sermon on the Mount.” In spite of such statements, I am certain that no nonchristian is living according to this sermon. It is no easy matter for devout Christians to live according to the Sermon on the Mount, and if it is difficult for Christians to do so, it is impossible for lost people to do it. Jesus mentioned in the text two things which rank first and second in importance to human beings. He tells us the number one thing and the number two thing which humans should desire above all other things. However, it should be pointed out that there is a disagreement among the sons of men as to which is number one and number two. Whatever others may think about it, Christians accept the word of Jesus on the subject. Consider with me,“The Greatest Human Need.” We shall consider the two greatest needs of the human race in reverse order and give our attention first to the second object of human pursuit. The second most important thing in life is food, clothing, and shelter. The material necessities of life is number two in importance, according to Jesus. The Lord said, “Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” The words, “all these things” refer to food, shelter, and clothing, and Jesus is not saying that these things are unimportant. He obviously means they are not at the top of the list; they are next to the top. This fact is indelibly impressed on our minds by a teaching He gave in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” God and mammon are the two masters who divide the allegiance of mankind and represent number one and number two of all human priorities. Some think the word Mammon may have been the name of the Syrian god of riches. Be that as it may, the term stands for wealth, security, and possessions. It includes all the material things in life which money can buy. The pursuit of money, and the things money can buy, is the number one pursuit of mankind in general. For this reason, it has become a rival to the one true and living God to whom supreme allegiance belongs. It is, therefore, fitting that money and possessions should be called by the term mammon whom the ancients may have worshipped as the god of riches. It can be truly said that most of the human race is devoted to the worship of mammon. Thus it deserves to be placed along side of God as an object of devotion and adoration. Mammon is indeed a modern—day god. However, Jesus said man cannot give both God and mammon an equal devotion. Both cannot hold an equal place in your allegiance. You must and will put one or the other first in your life; you must serve one first and the other second. You cannot roll one eye towards heaven, and focus the other on the things of the earth. When we make it the supreme purpose of life to pursue wealth, security, and pleasure, this is to serve mammon. On the other hand, to evaluate life in terms of heaven is to serve God. Man is not to be a split personality and be divided in his loyalty between God and mammon. There is no need for inordinate anxiety about material necessities. Matthew 6:31 says, “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.” What an odd tatement! Have we not families to provide for and bills to pay? Must not our bodily wants be supplied? Certainly people need food, clothing, shelter, and a little extra for a rainy day. There is no virtue in having too much month at the end of money. Jesus did not teach irresponsible, lazy, and careless living. We should diligently pursue our livelihood and try to get ahead in life. When Jesus said, “Take no thought” for the physical needs of life, the point is we are not to be overly worried or overly anxious. The thing forbidden is to be so filled with anxiety, so fearful, and so concerned about physical needs that the possession of money becomes the driving force of the life and the ultimate goal of life. When money making becomes the number one desire and the first priority, people have little time for anything else, not even God. Recently on a television show, a celebrity asked a financial expert if it wouldn't it be wise to convert all our money into gold, so that we get food in a time of shortage. As wealthy as this man was, he was concerned about a food shortage. There is an increasing fear in our world about simple necessities as food, clothing, and shelter. But Jesus said that inordinate anxiety for material necessities was a pagan quality. In Matthew 6:32 the Lord said, “For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.” When Jesus spoke these words, the Gentiles were in pagan religious darkness, without true religion and without hope in the world. The Gentile world was given over to materialism and earthly security. They had no time for true religion and God. The people devoted themselves almost one hundred percent to making a living. It was a rat race just to survive, and their philosophy was eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die. Americans are literally working themseles to death to have a little security when they retire. If we judge America by this standard of Jesus, then we must all agree that America is a pagan society, for it is doing the very thing the Gentiles were doing before Jesus came. Our society is devoted to obtaining food, clothing, shelter, security, and pleasure. Isn't this what the sysrtem is all about today? Jesus was not condemning hard work and success. Prudent provision for the future is right. We must have money to buy the necessities by which we live. And when possible, it is nice to enjoy a few of the luxuries of this life. The Bible commands Christians to have a livelihood and work diligently to provide the necessities of life. But this is not to be an obsession with us. It is not to be the driving force of life and the ultimate goal of life. Jesus said this is the number two priority, not number one.
There is no reason to be overly anxious about our physical needs because of God̓s providential care and love. Jesus said, “Take no thought” for these things because your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.” The meaning is that God feels responsible for providing human needs because He created this planet and all of its inhabitants. Whatever God creates He cares for providentially. God is watching out for the human race and has made provision for our physical wants. There is no call for making the amassing of wealth the number one pursuit in life. Jesus talked about
the birds and flowers to prove His point. They have physical needs also, but they are not filled with worry and anxiety. God has provided for them, and most of them depend on what they can get a day at a time. Jesus added that people are worth more than flowers and birds. Provisions are available, and God is our provider. So don't worry yourself to death about it. Hence, there is no real cause to make the pursuit of material things the all consuming goal of life. Jesus revealed that the greatest human need is God, Christ, and His religion. The Lord said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness...” All people might be willing to make the kingdom of God the second thing, but most everyone would like to choose his own first thing. All of us have some first object we would rather preserve than anything else. It may be life, honor, or self respect. Most people adopt the attitude, “We must secure food and raiment, and we would welcome religion afterwards.” But Jesus said this is not acceptable to God. True religion is the first thing, and man's first allegiance must be to God and not mammon. The greatest human need is Christ, and everything else can follow afterwards. The way to put God, Christ, and religion first in your life is to put the church first. When Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God”, the meaning is to put the church first in your life. You cannot put God and Christ first without putting the church first.
Why does God set such a high standard for His people and demand that we give Him first place in our hearts? The answer is He wants us to strive for perfection and wants us to be holy even as He is holy. If God should ask for less than first place in our hearts, He would receive no worthy place there at all. To put true religion in second place is to insult it. We give Him little enough as it is. Could we worship Him who made us if He asked no more of us than we ask of one another? The Lord's church is of such great value that we should give up any desire of our heart which obstructs our entrance into it or impedes our progress after entering. There was a family of Christians who moved from Florida to Wisconsin to care for the wife's invalid father. They lived 55 miles from the city where they assembled with other Christians to worship God. Their responsibilities at home were many, and the distance they had to drive to church was 110 miles round trip. Arrangements had to be made for someone to care for the wife's father so they could go to church on Lord's Day. They drove over icy roads, through snow and sleet, when the temperature was 30 degrees below zero. During four years, they missed the Sunday worship only six times, and this was due to illness. Why did they do this? Was this carrying religion to radicalism? By no means. They went to much inconvenience to attend church services because God was first in their lives. However, there are many people in the world today who put about everything ahead of the church. Some excuse themselves by saying, “I have to work.” I talked to a man in the hospital who said, “I need to get back to attending church services, but my job won't allow it. If I don't work on Sundays, I won't get my raises and promotions.” Yet, we are convinced that if Christians want to put the kingdom of God first, they can arrange for at least one hour of worship each week. I wouldn't have a job which would not allow me to worship God. Christians should put some serious thought and planning into their livelihood and avoid those situations which come into conflict with the Lord's teaching on putting His church first. Parents
should counsel their children wisely in this regard when they are thinking in terms of a future profession. In this day of social, religious, and moral upheaval, parents are justified in feeling concern and apprehension over the future of their children.
When our children graduate from high school and leave home, many of them also leave the church. Suddenly they are exposed to an environment hostile to Christ and to the basic principles of morality. If a young person is not equipped to handle this, he is in grave trouble. Unfortunately, at a time when families should be doing everything in their power to strengthen their spiritual defenses against evil and Satan, many are permitting the safeguard to be torn down. Neglect of Sunday school and Sunday evening services, absence from midweek service, and failure to encourage children to become totally involved in church centered activities are some of the more obvious evidences of this foolish neglect.
Parents need to get their priorities straight. Those of us who preach seldom have the courage to remind weeping parents of the problem. When children lose interest in God and the church, parents should be reminded of the days when they chose fishing instead of church and when they chose weekend trips and night recreation instead of Sunday night inspiration, worshiping with God's people. It takes only one hole in the fence to let the dog out. It's amazing how prolific some people are at inventing new excuses to rationalize their habitual neglect. I would much prefer a person to be honest enough to say, “I just don't want to attend church” than to forever blame job, health, grandma, or baby. What advantage is there in covering up the real facts in the case? That only adds to sin. Parents, give your children a break! Put first things first! Let nothing interfere with regular church attendance. In all of the religious confusion of our day, children need help in finding the church you can read about in the New Testament. They also need the guidance Christ can give them in their daily lives. There are entire conqregations of New Testament Christians who are putting the kingdom of God first. Their love for Christ and His church is so impelling that they make sacrifices for His cause. They give liberally and have been known to borrow to help spread the gospel in destitute fields. The difficulty of our putting souls above money is demonstrated by an incident which occurred in an East Texas community. In 1930 oil was discovered in that part of the state, and several wells were drilled on a piece of property which belonged to a small church of forty members. When the first well came in, the members met to determine what would be done with the money. Would they use it in sending missionaries to the lost people of the world or in caring for widows and orphans? No, they decided not to use it for such purposes. The only way they could reach an agreement was for the money to be equally divided among the membership. And at this same meeting, they voted not to receive any more members into the church. We understand that Robert Ripley wrote this incident up in his “Believe It or Not” column under the title, “The Only Church in the World Which Does Not Want More Members.” In conclusion, permit me to say that there is one great end and purpose of your life, and you must voluntarily make that your one, first and chief end. There may be intermediate ends and objects which rightly call for your attention, but there is one priority which must never be forgotten. You were made for God, to love Him, serve Him, praise Him, live in fellowship with Him, and do His holy will. The true order of our human pursuits should be: first God; second, material necessities; and third, pleasure.