And seek you great things for yourself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil on all flesh, said the LORD…
We wish, so to speak, not to annihilate the passions of human nature, which sin disturbs and perverts; but, if possible, to convert them, and turn them into another direction. You love pleasure, and we wish you to have pleasure; only we would draw you off from "the pleasures of sin for a season," to the joy of God's salvation; we would draw you from the filthy puddle to the "water of life, clear as crystal, which proceedeth from the throne of God and of the Lamb." You love wealth; we wish you to love it, and to obtain it; but not "the deceitful riches," as the Scriptures call them, but the "true riches," the "unsearchable riches of Christ." You are ambitious, and we wish you to be so; you wish to rise, and we wish you to rise; you wish to be great, and we wish you to be great; and therefore we would open a career of glory and grandeur, in pursuing which you will be placed far above philosophers, and politicians, and heroes, and kings; "dwelling on high," and being "quickened together with Christ," "raised up, and made to sit with Him in the heavenly places." There are four reasons why you should not "seek great things" for yourselves on earth, and four reasons why you should "seek those things that are above."
I. THE ONE IS UNCERTAIN IN ACQUISITION — THE OTHER SURE. A great deal of what is called earthly greatness is placed beyond the reach of many, whatever they may do. Many are poor, and they have not the opportunities and the means of becoming affluent. Many cannot fill the seats of learning and of science; they have not capacities to acquire the needful treasures. But here is a reason why you should "seek those things which are above"; for these are always sure in their attainment. In the work of the Lord the servant may become equally great with the master; for moral greatness does not consist in doing great things, but in doing little things with a great mind. And these are accessible to all.
II. THE ONE IS FLEETING IN POSSESSION — THE OTHER DURABLE. What is all history, but a relation of the revolutions to which all worldly things are liable — of the rich despoiled of their wealth, of nobles stript of their honours, of princes dethroned, exiled, imprisoned, put to death — Pharaoh in the Red Sea, Nebuchadnezzar eating grass like an ox, Belshazzar the conqueror and the conquered, Napoleon the emperor and the captive! These instances, perhaps, are too peculiar, and too remote, and national, to impress many of you: look therefore nearer home; look at those things which will touch you. What is honour, but a noise of airy breath? What is popularity? It hangs on the wavering tongue of the multitude, who are like the waves of the sea, driven to and fro and tossed; now rolling towards one shore, and now towards another, according to the gale; now crying "Hosannah," and now "Crucify Him, crucify Him." Yes, wherever on earth you lay up treasure, you must lay it up where "moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal." And here is another thing to be taken into the account too. Allowing that these things could be perpetuated in your possession to the end of life, they can be possessed no longer. You have only a life interest in any of them. Shall I set my heart on that which is not, and that from which I am so soon to be removed? But now this is a reason why you should "seek those things that are above"; for he that succeeds here (and we have shown that you will succeed if you seek them), has "chosen," as our Saviour says, "that good part, which shall never be taken away from him." He has seized a blessedness which is independent of external accidents, independent of the revolutions of states, independent of the vicissitudes of time, independent of the ravages of death, independent of the conflagration of the last day: so that when "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burnt up," he can stand upon the ashes of the universe and say, "I have lost nothing"; "I look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness."
III. THE ONE IS UNSATISFACTORY IN ENJOYMENT — THE OTHER SATISFYING. Take the "great things" you would here seek after for yourself; allowing that you attain them (and you have heard that the attainment is uncertain) — allowing that you could retain them (and you have heard that the retention is impossible) — yet there is no real contentment in them. Ahab was king of Israel Was he satisfied with his dominion? No; he covets Naboth's little vineyard; and because he cannot obtain it, he is sick forsooth and takes to his bed and can eat nothing. Some of the Roman emperors, who strode over the world, were the most wretched of all beings; they were burdens to themselves. I was one day walking with rich individual over his estate; his mind was in a serious mood, and I endeavoured to avail myself of it; and he made this very wise remark, "Sir," said he, "those who have not succeeded in the world always impute their dissatisfaction to their want of success; they are not aware of the insufficiency of these things themselves. 'Oh!' say they, 'could we obtain them, we should be happy.' But those of us who have succeeded, and have obtained them, and find ourselves no nearer happiness than before, are the men who know that the fault lies in the things themselves." But this is a reason why you should "seek those things which are above." They are satisfying.
IV. THE ONE IS DANGEROUS AND INJURIOUS IN INFLUENCE — THE OTHER SAFE AND BENEFICIAL. Yes; the "great things" you seek here for yourselves, owing to our depravity, are full of peril. "Who is the Lord," says Pharaoh, "that I should obey Him?" "How," says our Saviour, "can ye believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour which cometh from God only?" Even good men, with regard to these "great things," as they are called in our text, want peculiar grace, or they will. not be proof against their evil influence. Hezekiah could not bear the notice taken of him by the ambassadors of Benhadad; "his heart was lifted up; therefore was wrath upon him and all his people." I never yet saw a Christian improved by his rising in the world: I have seen many who have been injured by it: I have seen many who have been less constant and regular in their attendance on the means of grace, though they had more leisure, and could command a vehicle: I have seen those who have given less afterwards — not less comparatively, but less absolutely; some of them who gave gold, then gave silver, and some even copper. Wherefore, once more, "Seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not"; but "seek those things which are above." There safety is. These are not only blameless; but they are profitable — "profitable unto all things; having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." These, instead of polluting the mind, will purify it; they will draw you off from earth, instead of allowing you to settle here. Instead of elevating you, they will clothe you with humility; instead of leading you away from your God, they will connect you with Him; they will prepare you for every condition in which you can be found. Therefore you cannot have too much of these.
Parallel VersesKJV: And seekest thou great things for thyself? seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith the LORD: but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.