Christ warns us: take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor for your body, what ye shall put on – these are the anxieties of mankind in every age.
The devil, on the other hand, wants very much that we should think about temporary things.
These are the things which keep our minds and hearts off the Kingdom of God.
Even the simplest things – like food and clothing – are enough to pull us off track.
When a person is learning to drive a car, the instructor will tell us to keep our eyes on the horizon: if our eyes should drift to the right or to the left, we will end up in the ditch.
So it is with the Kingdom of God.
Saint Augustine says, our eyes must always be on the Kingdom of Heaven – the final goal of everything we do. We should not be worried about the food, or the clothing, or the bills, or the causes we need to sort out along the way – God will provide these things, because we are only passing through.
But the devil is smart, dear brothers and sisters. He knows that today, food and clothing may not be enough to distract us from God. Not only has he introduced a hundred flavours of food, and a thousand varieties of clothing (if you can call them all clothing), he has in modern times drawn us away from our true goal – our true home – in the Kingdom of Heaven, with new distractions.
The devil has told us that we are victims – that we need to be avenged.
The devil has told us that someone has wronged our ancestors at some point in the past – and that we must hunt down that enemy and settle the score.
The devil has told us that we have a mission in this world – a bloodthirsty, wicked mission, which must be fulfilled at all costs – which we must complete before we start thinking about the Kingdom of Heaven.
The devil may even trick us with the idea that this plan of vengeance on earth is part of God’s plan for the Kingdom of Heaven – but that is a lie.
As Christians, we can detect this lie when we hear it.
We can detect this lie whenever we hear someone say that tribulations, and patience, and endurance are bad things… when they suggest these virtues are to be avoided.
When we hear the mob demand that the time for patience is over… we have heard the lie!
When we hear that the time for revenge for the sufferings inflicted on us has come… we have heard the lie!
When we hear that we are going to bring justice on the earth through the minds and efforts of men… brothers and sisters, we have heard the lie!
The Lord tells us through the words of Saint Paul, that we as Christians glory in tribulations – but why?
Because tribulations produce in us the virtue of patience, and patience allows us to gain experience. Saint Clement of Alexandria says this is the only way we learn to have the endurance to get us to the future hope – the Kingdom of God.
If we don’t have endurance, if we don’t have hope, we’ll simply get bogged down in the toils and cares and anxieties of life in the world – and we will never raise our eyes to where they should be!
Brethren, Saint John Chrysostom says, greed wounds the centre of our vitality – our soul! – and when we wound our soul through greed, we will lose God, here on earth, and in eternity.
Right now, many, many people in our world are wrapped up in being victims – and in the process, they are losing communion with God.
Many people are wrapped up in seeking revenge for wrongs committed against them – and in the process, they are losing communion with God.
Many people are wrapped up in a mission – a bloodthirsty, wicked mission, which must be fulfilled at all costs – to bring about a new kind of world based on the vengeance of the evil one, disguised as “justice”, and not the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
Those who follow this path – including those who call themselves Orthodox Christians – will lose communion with God.
But the Lord gives us a better way – the way He wants every person to follow.
He tells us, take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, what you shall drink, or what you shall put on. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
This path is very different. It keeps our eyes on the horizon. It keeps our life from running off the road, into the ditch – into disaster.
It is never too late to pull your life out of the ditch, out of disaster. The Lord gives us the way: to seek His Kingdom first, above everything else – above food, above clothing, above our jobs, above our cause, above our vengeance.
Here we will find our hearts begin to heal – and hope begins to grow in us again.