I’ve been pondering a lot lately what it means to “seek first the Kingdom of God.” Jesus calls his followers to do this in the book of Matthew in the Bible. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus or practice any faith at all, this question is intriguing, so stick with me here. It’s an interesting question for all of us because it’s a basic human question, really. It’s the question of “how should I live my life?”
What does it actually look like, each day and in all things, to seek first the Kingdom of God instead of something else?
Part of the answer lies, I believe, in the context of that directive from Jesus. It’s a single line in a much longer passage about not worrying. About provision. About the faithfulness and love of a Father for his children. Why would Jesus wrap up that part of his sermon on the mount with a directive to seek first the Kingdom? I think it has everything to do with focus. With where we fix our eyes. Where do we go first in our minds each day, each hour, each moment as we are faced with challenges and decisions and opportunities?
If I’m honest, without an effort to do otherwise, my feet hit the floor every morning seeking first my kingdom. My needs and wants and problems and questions for the day. Staring at my own proverbial feet and wondering where they will take me today. It is so easy, indeed natural, to focus on ourselves. It is natural in the sense that it is the ingrained way of us humans. Self preservation. But not all “natural” things are healthy. Would you eat a rubber tree? Drink a gallon of maple syrup? (ok I admit, some of us might do that. But would it be good for us?)
Seeking first the kingdom, then, starts by recognizing that I am not the center of the universe. That there is indeed a “kingdom.” Something much bigger than myself. As soon as we shift our focus from our own problems, wants and needs, something happens inside us. Our hearts grow less anxious. We see the needs and wants and pains of others and we gain perspective. Then we can find our place in it all. And we can figure out what to do about it. We can figure out how to live.
For us Christ-followers, we have a framework for a lot of specific things he calls us to do and be in the world. But we won’t even get to that point until we shift our gaze from ourselves and fix it on him, on others, and on the world around us.
So in this time where we are encouraged every day by advertisers and activists and politicians and nearly every impulse inside us to look out for ourselves and make decisions based on what is good for the almighty “me”, what would happen if we sought the good of others before ourselves? What would happen if some of us sought first the kingdom every day? Might we see the hurts and needs of the most vulnerable in ways we never have? Might we think differently about our political rhetoric? Might we use our resources differently?
Maybe, just maybe, we’d start a revolution.
Grace and Peace,
A healthy and united America is truly possible… and it starts with us. John Kingston draws on wisdom from history, science, faith and culture, along with his own experiences, to offer eight principles for discovering purpose, meaning and true community.
“I want to read books by people who have lived compelling and non traditional life stories. John and this book are paramount in this regard. It is a book that is not only compelling and completely captivating because of his life and stories, but the truths found therein are beyond powerful. This book has a surgeon’s precision diagnosing the problem, but a surgeon’s skill in the solution–it leaves you feeling healed and better than when you started it. Grateful to John and this message. Not many books do I buy a box full to hand out, but this is one of them.”
— Jefferson Bethke, NYT best selling author of Jesus > Religion