Seek Ye First...Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.”
During my teenage years in the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, I must have sung “Seek Ye First” by Karen Lafferty about five hundred times. I loved this song’s simple melody, so easily and beautifully harmonized. The words moved my heart because they were spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you, Allelu, Alleluia” (see Matt. 6:33, King James Version).
Yet, during all of those years singing “Seek Ye First,” I wasn’t really sure what I was supposed to seek. I associated the kingdom of God with heaven. So I paraphrased “Seek ye first” as “Seek eternal life in heaven most of all." Yet, as a believer in Jesus, I knew that I had already received the gift of eternal life. So how was I to seek it further? I had a sense that “Seek ye first” had something to do with putting God first in my life, especially when you add “and his righteousness,” but I was still unclear about what exactly I was singing week after week in youth group meetings.
In previous reflections on Luke, I have explained Jesus’ understanding of the kingdom of God (see May Your Kingdom Come Soon and The Presence of the Kingdom; for a much more complete discussion of the kingdom of God, see my blog series What Was the Message of Jesus?). In a nutshell, the kingdom is not a place where God reigns so much as the actual reign, rule, and authority of God. The kingdom of God is not heaven, though God does reign fully there. The kingdom of God is not a feeling or some ethereal spiritual reality. Rather, it is the presence and power of the sovereign God, who is King of kings and Lord of lords.
Thus, when Jesus tells us to “Seek the kingdom of God” above all else (12:31), he is saying: “Let God be King over your whole life. Follow God’s direction and live for God’s glory. Wherever you are, whatever you do, seek God’s purpose and walk in his ways.” The tense of the Greek verb translated as “seek” emphasizes the ongoing character of Jesus’ imperative. We are to seek and keep on seeking God’s reign over our lives.
In the 1980s, I served on the staff of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. One of my responsibilities was to help lead worship for the Sunday evening service there. As you might guess, I did often choose “Seek Ye First” for our worship. But, in my desire for the congregation to understand what they were singing, I added a verse to the official version of the song: “We seek first your kingdom, Lord, and your righteousness. Reign in our lives as we give ourselves to you. Allelu. Alleluia.”
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: How have you understood the imperative of Jesus to seek the kingdom of God? In what ways do you seek God’s reign each day? Where do you find it especially challenging to seek the reign of God over your life?
PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, for this simple yet profound imperative: Seek the kingdom of God. No matter where I am or what I am doing, this command offers direction and encouragement. In all things, I am to seek your reign over my life. I am to offer myself to you, to live for your purposes and glory.
Dear Lord, you know I do this inconsistently. There are times I seek your kingdom most of all. Yet there are plenty of times when I seek other things. Sometimes these are good things, like security for my family, that are simply out of order when it comes to eternal priorities. At other times, what I seek is simply wrong, as when I pursue my own rule over my life rather than yours. Forgive me, Lord, when I fail to seek your kingdom.
By your Spirit, help me to desire you more than anything else. Help me to want to live each moment under your gracious authority. Stir up in me an unquenchable thirst for your kingdom and your glory, so that I might yearn to seek you in all things.
All praise, glory, and honor be to you, King of kings and Lord of lords. Amen.