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It was Augustine who argued that every sin is a failure to love ordinately. Sin is the result of either loving something more than we ought or the result of loving something less than we ought. We are to love, in order. Eve, for instance, found the fruit pleasing to the eye and desirable to make one wise. Nothing wrong there. She would have had to be blind to miss it. But she loved that fruit more than she should have, and she loved the law of God less than she should have. Our temptation, because we are the children of our parents who fell into sin, is often to defend our sin on the basis that it is grounded in love. That we steal our neighbor’s reputation because we “love truth” is one form of love justifying a multitude of sins. That we steal our neighbor’s wife because we “love her” is another attempt to defend sin. To love ordinately is to love as God loves, in due measure. It is to love what we love as we ought to love it.

This sin operates in both directions. All of us fail to love the Lord as we ought. We are commanded to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. We are commanded to have no other gods before Him. He is to be our singular holy passion, and every other passion ought only to serve this one passion. We fail, however, not only in loving too little, but in loving too much. The love of money, for instance, is the root of all kinds of evil. We should not be surprised to discover that these two kinds of failure to love ordinately, sins of omission and commission, are often tightly related. That is, we love one thing too lightly because we love the other thing too heavily, and vice versa.

Jesus makes much the same point when He commands us to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). He gives us this command right after encouraging us to cease from our worries over things of little import. He reminds us that we ought not to be anxious about what we will eat, what we will drink, or what we will wear. Then He commands that we focus our minds on that which truly matters.

This does not mean, of course, that food, drink, or clothing is sinful. Jesus is no gnostic, suggesting that salvation means escaping the dirty, grubby, earthly things for the ethereal, spiritual, heavenly things. In the same chapter, after all, He commanded that we should pray to our Father in heaven for the provision of our daily bread. Our food is, in itself, adiaphora. Our drink is adiaphora. This is why Paul later commands us not to judge one another on these matters (Rom. 14:13). We fall into sin, however, when our love for these things, which are in themselves adiaphora, becomes misguided.

Jesus’ wisdom here in the Sermon on the Mount, however, isn’t to unduly separate food or drink from the kingdom. Having told us not to worry about these things — having warned us against the folly of the Gentiles who lust after these things, as He prepares to give us a more kingdomminded perspective, calling us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness — He reminds us that our Father knows that we need these things. And He promises in the end that as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added unto us.

Our calling, then, is neither to obsess about these things nor to look down our noses at them. Instead, we are called to give thanks to our Father in heaven for every good gift. We must never allow our passion for the gift to obscure our view of the Giver. Instead, we should look through every good gift to see and to praise the Giver.

This is our Father’s world. While His law may give us liberty, we are never free not to give thanks. While God does not see vanilla ice cream as sin and strawberry as righteousness, He does require that we thank Him, that we remember with joy that He is our Father who gives us these things. Indeed, both the kingdom we are called to seek and the righteousness we are called to seek are built from our gratitude. Remember, again, that He rules over all things. His kingdom is not only forever, it is everywhere. What distinguishes us from the world isn’t that He reigns over us but not them. Instead, it is that we are grateful for His reign while they bristle under it.

The ordinary things of this world — the mundane — are not mere artifacts of culture. They are not merely the tools of the natural realm. They are instead precious gifts from our heavenly Father. They are given to us for His glory. And our gratitude will redound for eternity. Everything, adiaphora or not, connects with our Father above. Nothing is merely human. How we handle His gifts therefore matters. That is why we would be wise to remember that right now counts forever.

The Fine Line

The Music of the Covenant

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From the July 2010 Issue
Jul 2010 Issue