53. |Therefore be not anxious,| says He,| 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 Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.| Here He shows most manifestly that these things are not to be sought as if they were our blessings in such sort, that on account of them we ought to do well in all our actings, but yet that they are necessary. For what the difference is between a blessing which is to be sought, and a necessary which is to be taken for use, He has made plain by this sentence, when He says, |Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.| The kingdom and the righteousness of God therefore are our good; and this is to be sought, and there the end is to be set up, on account of which we are to do everything which we do. But because we serve as soldiers in this life, in order that we may be able to reach that kingdom, and because our life cannot be spent without these necessaries, |These things shall be added unto you,| says He; |but seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.| For in using that word |first,| He has indicated that this is to be sought later, not in point of time, but in point of importance: the one as being our good, the other as being something necessary for us; but the necessary on account of that good.
54. For neither ought we, for example, to preach the gospel with this object, that we may eat; but to eat with this object, that we may preach the gospel: for if we preach the gospel for this cause, that we may eat, we reckon the gospel of less value than food; and in that case our good will be in eating, but that which is necessary for us in preaching the gospel. And this the apostle also forbids, when he says it is lawful for himself even, and permitted by the Lord, that they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel, i.e. should have from the gospel the necessaries of this life; but yet that he has not made use of this power. For there were many who were desirous of having an occasion for getting and selling the gospel, from whom the apostle wished to cut off this occasion, and therefore he submitted to a way of living by his own hands. For concerning these parties he says in another passage, |That I may cut off occasion from them which seek occasion.| Although even if, like the rest of the good apostles, by the permission of the Lord he should live of the gospel, he would not on that account place the end of preaching the gospel in that living, but would rather make the gospel the end of his living; i.e., as I have said above, he would not preach the gospel with this object, that he might get his food and all other necessaries; but he would take such things for this purpose, in order that he might carry out that other object, viz. that willingly, and not of necessity, he should preach the gospel. For this he disapproves of when he says, |Do ye not know, that they which minister in the temple eat the things which are of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar? Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. But I have used none of these things.| Hence he shows that it was permitted, not commanded; otherwise he will be held to have acted contrary to the precept of the Lord. Then he goes on to say: |Neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.| This he said, as he had already resolved, because of some who were seeking occasion, to gain a living by his own hands. |For if I preach the gospel,| says he, |I have nothing to glory of:| i.e., if I preach the gospel in order that such things may be done in my case, or, if I preach with this object, in order that I may obtain those things, and if I thus place the end of the gospel in meat and drink and clothing. But wherefore has he nothing to glory of? |Necessity,| says he,| is laid upon me;| i.e. so that I should preach the gospel for this reason, because I have not the means of living, or so that I should acquire temporal fruit from the preaching of eternal things; for thus, consequently, the preaching of the gospel will be a matter of necessity, not of free choice. |For woe is unto me,| says he, |if I preach not the gospel!| But how ought he to preach the gospel? Evidently in such a way as to place the reward in the gospel itself, and in the kingdom of God: for thus he can preach the gospel, not of constraint, but willingly. |For if I do this thing willingly,| says he, |I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me;| if, constrained by the want of those things which are necessary for temporal life, I preach the gospel, others will have through me the reward of the gospel, who love the gospel itself when I preach it; but I shall not have it, because it is not the gospel itself I love, but its price lying in those temporal things. And this is something sinful, that any one should minister the gospel not as a son, but as a servant to whom a stewardship of it has been committed; that he should, as it were, pay out what belongs to another, but should himself receive nothing from it except victuals, which are given not in consideration of his sharing in the kingdom, but from without, for the support of a miserable bondage. Although in another passage he calls himself also a steward. For a servant also, when adopted into the number of the children, is able faithfully to dispense to those who share with him that property in which he has acquired the lot of a fellow-heir. But in the present case, where he says, |But if against my will, a dispensation (stewardship) is committed unto me,| he wished such a steward to be understood as dispenses what belongs to another, and from it gets nothing himself.
55. Hence anything whatever that is sought for the sake of something else, is doubtless inferior to that for the sake of which it is sought; and therefore that is first for the sake of which you seek such a thing, not the thing which you seek for the sake of that other. And for this reason, if we seek the gospel and the kingdom of God for the sake of food, we place food first, and the kingdom of God last; so that if food were not to fail us, we would not seek the kingdom of God: this is to seek food first, and then the kingdom of God. But if we seek food for this end, that we may gain the kingdom of God, we do what is said, |Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.|