Before we begin to explore what this famous verse taken from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6 might have to say to us with regards to our interest in classical Christian liberal arts, let us firstly explore what this does not say. Many of the very things that this verse does not say are the same pitfalls that many Christian students and their parents fall into when they find themselves shopping for a college to which to attend or to send their precious children. Sadly, this even includes many students who have been trained classically.
True enough that Matthew 6:33 does not say that we ought to seek first our career paths. There is sometimes a fine line drawn between seeking the Kingdom and fulfilling the vocational call that God has placed upon our lives. Certainly I believe that God has a specific placement in his Kingdom for us to fulfill, but the only true way of knowing that calling is to know God and then to know ourselves in that light. As we seek the face of God and as he reveals himself to us, we not only know him but his plans for his church. Then we are privileged to know how we fit into his providential plans for his Kingdom. It is only then that the Holy Spirit will reveal what we are to do for him. In the meantime, before we receive God’s special and specific will for our lives, we need to be seeking to fulfill his general will for our lives. These are the things that every Christian ought to be doing: praying, maturing in the knowledge of Christ the living Word as well as of the written Word, fellowshipping with believers, existing as a living sacrifice, committing to regular acts of worship, living as a witness, confessing our sins, and in summary, loving God and our neighbor. For such is the Kingdom of God. While the classical Christian liberal arts college does not emphasize a vocational training, it does view itself as a formal training ground where the student is modeled as a Kingdom character and leader; one seeking to be formed into the image of God with all implications of spiritual, physical, social, and intellectual life, trusting that whatever God calls the student into, s/he will be fully and perfectly equipped. Remember this: God does not call the equipped; rather he equips the called.
It is likewise true that it does not suggest that we should seek out our spouses. Again, I have no doubt that God desires to mate up his children into beautiful unions of marriage that they might exemplify the relationship between Christ and his Bride, and procreate the next generation of Christ-followers and Kingdom leaders. However, if one’s eyes are always on the horizontal level with only a gratuitous glance to the vertical relationship, such a seeker may miss the true intersection of relationship of two Kingdom-seekers instead of two Christian-mate hunters on the prowl. What a blessed union, in God’s perfect providential plan, we might find with our future mates if they are also concurrently seeking first the Kingdom of God. The logical question is whether we would like to be joined with someone seeking a mate or someone seeking the face of God? Of course Christian colleges are great places to find a mate, but if a young lady only attends in order that she may ‘earn’ her Mrs. degree, she has missed a great opportunity to get to know her Lord and Savior more intimately. Seek first and these things will be added unto you.
By no means is Jesus offering an alternative route of seeking out prestige. For good reason classically trained students feel they should seek out the most prestigious universities because they are so well equipped above and beyond their contemporaries. Yet in the end if this was the goal of the classical Christian education, it turns out to be nothing more than a mansion built upon the sand. If we are to believe the Bible, we have to come to the conclusion that those who seek to be exalted with be brought low; and that God resists the proud but give grace to the humble. If this is the attitude in seeking a prestigious university, and the end-goal is the same as joe-blow secular, then classical “Christian” education is nothing more than a means to a secular ends, like candy-coated poison. God is dishonored.
Seeking out the parents’ alma mater should not even compute in the equation. This strategy in seeking a college is perhaps one of the most unwise pursuits of them all. Yet I know scores of Christian parents who blindly advocate their alma maters, and promote their children’s attendance of the college or university regardless of what it is or even what it used to be. It does not matter that it is a secular state school where immorality ran rampant and is probably even worse now. Or it could have been a decent Christian college decades ago but new administration or faculty could have pulled the institution to biblical infidelity, leaving it only a shell of what it used to be. Worse still is the Christian college that remains Christian in name only and its pretense becomes the wolf in sheep’s clothing. On a personal note, I would not send my children to the university I once attended. To be fair, it is bigger, better facilities, better sports and other programs, it has attained university status, but whom will my children resemble when they have achieved their sought-after degree? Will they be more like Christ or more like their agenda-driven professors? And to be fair again, I spent years there as an adjunct instructor and I know some things intimately, thus making this an informed decision.
Certainly we should be able to derive at personal peace and prosperity from this mandate, but sadly enough this too conflicts with the underlying meaning of the passage under investigation. I owe this terminology of personal peace and prosperity to R.C. Sproul, Jr. who reiterated this theme throughout his work on homeschooling, When They Rise Up. What Sproul advocates is that if our goals are peace and prosperity, then though our methods are radically different, our mentalities are not different from our secular counterparts. Certainly nothing is inherently wrong with peace and prosperity since the Bible suggests both for those who are faithful to the Lord (according to his good pleasure), but we still must face to face the commandment to seek the Kingdom first, not a personal gain. We have to keep in mind that if we are faithful to seek the Kingdom first, all these things will be added unto us; but the order is important here.
This is perhaps the biggest shock of all: it does not even say that we are to seek out our personal lives of devotion and spirituality. We might say that seeking the Kingdom means pursuing our own spiritual welfare. I firmly believe that we should seek to be spiritually mature, but I refuse to equate this with the pursuit of the Kingdom of God. Yes, God wants us to be mature in our faith, ever growing, but we need to have the tenacity to search for something greater than ourselves. Building of the Kingdom should take precedence over our personal growth, though the two must never be separated or artificially disentangled.
So down to the brass tacks: what is the connection between the search for the Kingdom and classical Christian education? Firstly, the goal of classical Christian education is to be faithful to our placement in the broader Kingdom of God, not just in relation to the present universal church but also with the universal and timeless church, past, present and future. Secondly, classical Christian education trains the students to be worthy members in the broader context of the Kingdom, ready to tackle any task at any time. Thirdly, as their characters are developed into the image of God, and as they reach a point in life ready to procreate the next generation, the Kingdom will grow by means of a new faithful generation. Fourthly, while the secular culture continues to dumb-down and its constituent members narrow their scopes into specific expertise, the well-roundedness of the classical Christian liberal artists will have much to offer in terms of creating culture and holding onto the past with a clear vision for the future.
I ask you, therefore, to check your motives in the search for a college for yourself or for your children. Will this possible college or university encourage your mandate to seek first the Kingdom of God or will it be a distraction, or worse a hindrance, and worse still, will it stand diametrically opposed to the very idea or existence of the Kingdom or its eternal King? Find a college that will foster your mandate to seek the Kingdom first, and trust God to bring to you all that you need to fulfill life and godliness.