Thursday, January 26, 2012

Don't seek first the Kingdom, and don't make God your top priority!

If you think about it,  and look at context, it's obvious that "seek first the Kingdom" cannot be what Jesus means.

I know, I know, you have it memorized that way,
your Bible says it that way..
.............and so does the song.


"First" implies one would seek something second, third, etc.  But he says "seek...the Kingdom, and all these things [food, clothes etc] will be added to you."  Not: "seek the Kingdom, and then you can seek food , clothes."  No, "all these things" are given you, without you seeking them at all.
                               They are a by-product of seeking the one thing.

To seek them..even sincerely; even secondly... would be idolatry.
      "Purity of heart," Kierkegaard said, "is to will one thing."
                   Christianity is seeking one thing: the Kingdom thing.

Besides, we are so far only quoting a (poor) translation of Matthew's version of this saying
In Luke's version, the word "first" is not any translation.
Don't take my word for it..check it out!:

"But seek his kingdom,
            and these things will be given to you as well." -Luke 12:31.

 "But seek his kingdom,
             and these things will be sought by you as well."

How often have you seen it suggested  (here in the West, of course), that our priority list should follow this order:

  1. God
  2. family
  3. church
  4. work          etc etc

Give it up.  Get your priorities right, and ditch the priority list.

(By the way, sing the song, and recite the Matthew "memory verse" in your head.
Did you saying "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God"?  It doesn't say that. No "of God". Hmm. 
 Check it out).  And  what's actually really helpful about the "ye" of King James, is it is meant to be a plural: a corprate seeking.. so an INDIVIDUAL priority list is already out of the question.  If you succumb to one, at least make it a corporate, churchwide community, open-source one!)

Read Joel Green  (below) prayerfully and carefully; and then check out Matthew 6 all over again:

 When Jesus calls on would-be disciples to "seek first the Kingdom," is he thinking of a list of priorities with "my relationship with God" at the head?  In fact, a closer reading of this part of the Sermon on the Mount may indicate that putting God at the top of our list of priorities is precisely what we must never do.

Some may take offense at this suggestion.  After all, they may say, look at the passage!  Doesn't Matthew 6:25-24 teach just this order of priorities?  Doesn't it say, "Don't put food and drink first; don't put clothing concerns first; rather, put the Kingdom of God first'?"  On the basis of this passage, should we not say that "seeking first God's kingdom" must occupy the top spot on our list of priorities?  Is this not what Jesus is teaching?"

Maybe be can get closer to the meaning of this passage if we paraphrase Matthew 6:33 differently.  Consider these alternatives: "Let the Kingdom of God be at the center of your life...not at the top."
"Let the Kingdom of God set the standards for your life."  "Let the kingdom of God determine how you live, how you work, how you communicate, how you play."  These alternative readings make good on the fact that the Greek word often translated "first" in this context, proton, is used in the gospels not only to denote "the first in a series," but also "that upon which everything hinges."

In other words, do not put the Kingdom of God first on your priority list; rather, let the Kingdom of God determine your priority list! [emphasis mine]

In order to measure our response to Jesus' message in Matthew 6:33, we must ask more than, have I prayed today, or have I read the Bible today?  As important as those spiritual disciplines are, they are not the heart of Jesus' message here.  We must go further, deeper.  We must begin to ask: What had God's kingdom to do with the job I am doing?  The way I drive?  The church I attend?  The friends I have?  How I relate to my next-door neighbor.  And so on. -Joel Green, The Kingdom of God: It's Meaning and Mandate, pp. 68-69 (review and summary here)
 Let me  now (I am editing this post later) add  to this post the picture inspired by Tim Geddert
 (faculty, FPU Seminary) that Tim Neufield (FPU faculty) drew...the pic I mentioned in the comments below, Reminds Katy Kee and I of a centered set that's bounded!


  1. "Let the Kingdom of God be at the center of your life...not at the top." love it! Centered set? :) thanks for always keeping me thinking, Dave!

  2. hey Katy: Yes, it sounds centered. check out this related diagram from FPU seminary prof Tim Geddert. Hopefully you can see it due to privacy settings, Let me know, Can;t wait to hear more about this:


Hey, thanks for engaging the conversation!