Seek First His Kingdom
October 4, 2022

Seek First His Kingdom

By Margaret Rees-Jones, Advisory Board Member, The Rees-Jones Foundation

“If we only had eyes to see and ears to hear and wits to understand…we would know that the Kingdom of God is what we all of us hunger for above all other things even when we don’t know its name or realize that it’s what we’re starving to death for. The Kingdom of God is where our best dreams come from and our truest prayers…We catch sight of it when at some moment of crisis a strength seems to come to us that is greater than our own strength. The Kingdom of God is where we belong. It is home, and whether we realize it or not, I think we are all of us homesick for it.”

Frederick Buechner, American Writer, Preacher & Theologian

 In the wake of Queen Elizabeth’s passing, I have been struck by the deep history of the British monarchy and the reign of kings and queens that exists in the United Kingdom. As Americans, there is something mysterious about this kind of rulership and what it entails. In the same way, it can be hard to fully grasp what this word kingdom really means, especially as it pertains to the Kingdom of God. All over the Bible, we see mentions of God’s kingdom juxtaposed with our own conception of the world around us in unlikely ways. Often, these references to God’s kingdom precede a parable or admonition that can perhaps be clues to what God truly means when he talks about this Kingdom.

The first Scripture that comes to mind about the Kingdom of God in the New Testament for me is found in Matthew 6. This is a verse that has intrigued me for a long time for its invitation to a simpler way of thinking about our lives and our purpose. Starting in verse 25, Matthew writes:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? …Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“…So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

What I find so compelling about this scripture, along with others within this same context, is the way they address our tendency to worry about other things, namely, those concerns that hold us earthbound—like what’s for dinner or what will we wear. Again, in Luke 12, there’s a similar sentiment:

“And which of you by being overly anxious and troubled with cares can add a cubit to his stature or a moment [unit] of time to his age [the length of his life]? If then you are not able to do such a little thing as that, why are you anxious and troubled with cares about the rest?

“And you, do not seek [by meditating and reasoning to inquire into] what you are to eat and what you are to drink; nor be of anxious (troubled) mind [unsettled, excited, worried, and in suspense]; For all the pagan world is [greedily] seeking these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Only aim at and strive for and seek His kingdom, and all these things shall be supplied to you also.” -Luke 12:25-26, 29-31

There’s a certain preoccupation with this world that God wants to address with us. More than just our concern over food, drink and clothing, perhaps, God wants to invite us to a better way of living than what the material, physical world offers us. He even goes on to say that the “pagan world” hustles after these things, implying that when we cross over into God’s way of doing things—we no longer subscribe to this same mentality. I love the way the Message translation phrases this in Luke 12:

“What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, not be so preoccupied with getting so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself.”

There’s that word again: the kingdom. When I looked elsewhere at the Scriptures, another reference to God’s kingdom stuck at out me in Matthew 20 where Matthew begins the chapter saying: “For the kingdom of heaven is like…” He goes on to explain a parable about workers in a vineyard being paid wages. The owner employs many men who come to work at different times. At the end of the day, some have only worked for one hour while others have worked for many hours. Yet, the owner pays them all the same amount. There’s a radical generosity here that we aren’t comfortable with for some reason. If we are honest with ourselves, it feels unjust. Why do we find this somehow unfair? The story ends with this explanation in verse 16:

“So those who [now] are last will be first [then], and those who [now] are first will be last [then]. For many are called, but few chosen.”

The Message translation calls this phenomenon, the “Great Reversal.” I love this way of putting it because, so often, we find that in the Kingdom of God, things are not always as they seem. There’s this paradox that occurs all over the Bible, where Jesus chooses people the world may not have noticed like the tax collector, where the weakness of the apostle Paul becomes God’s incredible showcase of strength, where the scarcity of five loaves of bread and two fish becomes God’s abundance and the feeding of five thousand. In this upside down, topsy-turvy reality, we see that God’s thoughts and His ways are indeed higher than ours as the prophet Isaiah reminds us in the Old Testament. Nothing is fair, in our limited definition, because all is grace. The generosity of God falls outside our paradigm of business as usual.

Perhaps, the things we thought were important or true about how the world works aren’t necessarily in God’s economy and Kingdom. As Paul put it in Romans 12, we need a complete renewal of our minds, a reframing of how we view our place in this world, in respect to God and His dominion.

How do we practically live this out? What does it look like to seek first His Kingdom, as Matthew and Luke write?

This is a question I am asking myself in this current season of life, but I have a hunch it will be a constant discovery in every season of life hereafter. However, I don’t think the Kingdom of God is as elusive as we may think. I do find it compelling that God uses the word “seek” here. There is a search that we all must go on to find it. It’s an invitation to a better way, to loving God with all of our hearts, our minds, and our souls above what the world has to offer us. Yet, what we get in return is far greater than we could ever hope for or imagine: a life free of worry about temporal things and focused more on what God is doing in us and around us. This is a life lived well, a life lived in light of eternity.

So, I ask myself: how does my life answer to this invitation? What am I seeking on a daily basis? What habits am I holding onto that either aid in my discovery of God’s Kingdom or just serve to distract me?

How do we prioritize the things that God values, His way of doing and being, His everlasting Kingdom—instead of our own agendas? These are answers that don’t come easy and take a lifetime to walk out. I remind myself that God fully understands our humanity, our need in the person of Jesus on earth. We are simply called to ask and to receive!

Each and every morning, and only with His new mercies, let our answer to His invitation be a resounding yes! And like Jesus taught us, let this then be our heart’s prayer:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.”

-Matthew 6:9-10

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