‘Keep On Seeking First the Kingdom’
1. (a) Why, 1,900 years ago, did Jesus say to seek the Kingdom first? (b) What question should we ask ourselves?
OVER 1,900 years ago, in a discourse given in Galilee, Jesus urged his hearers: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” But why? Was not the time for Christ’s enthronement many centuries off? Yes. But that Messianic Kingdom is the means by which Jehovah’s own holy name will be vindicated and his grand purpose toward the earth will be fulfilled. Anyone who truly appreciates the importance of this is going to give the Kingdom first place in his life. That was true in the first century and it certainly is so now that the Kingdom is ruling. Does your way of life show that you are seeking God’s Kingdom first?—Matt. 6:33.
2. What are the things that people in general eagerly pursue?
2 People in general are more interested in other things. They eagerly pursue riches and the clothing, food and other material possessions and pleasures that money can buy. (Matt. 6:31, 32) Their way of life reflects preoccupation with self and pleasure. In their lives, God is put in second place—if they believe in him at all.
3. (a) What kind of treasures did Jesus encourage his disciples to seek, and why? (b) Why was there no need to be overly concerned about material needs?
3 But to his disciples Jesus gave the counsel: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth,” because none of such possessions last forever. “Rather,” he said, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,” by serving Jehovah. He urged his followers to keep their eye “simple,” focusing their attention on just one thing, the doing of God’s will. “You cannot slave for God and for Riches,” he told them. But what about material needs—food, clothing and shelter? “Stop being anxious,” Jesus counseled. He directed their attention to the birds—God feeds them. He encouraged his followers to take a lesson from the flowers—God clothes them beautifully. Are not Jehovah’s intelligent human servants worth more than any of these? “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness,” Jesus said, “and all these other [necessary] things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:19-34) Do you believe that? Do your actions show it?
Do Not Let Kingdom Truth Be Choked Out
4. If a person puts too much emphasis on material things, what may be the outcome? Illustrate.
4 If a person is excessively concerned about material things, the results can be disastrous. Even though he professes interest in the Kingdom, if in his heart he puts other things first, Kingdom truth will be choked out. (Matt. 13:18, 19, 22) For example, on one occasion a rich young ruler asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” His response to Jesus’ reply showed that he led a moral life and treated others well. But he was overly attached to his material possessions. He could not bring himself to part with them in favor of being a follower of Christ. So he passed up an opportunity that could have led to his being a ruler with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom. As Jesus said on that occasion: “How difficult a thing it will be for those with money to enter into the kingdom of God!”—Mark 10:17-23.
5. (a) With what things did Paul encourage Timothy to be content, and why? (b) How does Satan use “love of money” as a destructive snare?
5 Years later, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, who was then in Ephesus, a wealthy commercial center. He reminded him: “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” Working in order to provide suitable “sustenance and covering” for oneself and one’s family is right. But Paul warned: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” Satan is subtle. At first he may entice a person in small ways. This is often followed by greater pressure—perhaps opportunity for promotion to a job that pays more but that demands time formerly set aside for spiritual matters. Unless we are on guard, “love of money” can choke out the all-important Kingdom interests. As Paul put it, “By reaching out for this love [of money] some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Tim. 6:7-10.
6. (a) To avoid being ensnared, what must we do? (b) Is that realistic in view of the world’s economic situation today?
6 With genuine love for his Christian brother, Paul urged Timothy: “Flee from these things,” and, “Fight the fine fight of the faith.” (1 Tim. 6:11, 12) Earnest effort is needed if we are to avoid being swept along with the materialistic way of life of the world around us. But if we do exert ourselves in harmony with our faith, Jehovah will never forsake us. Regardless of high prices and widespread unemployment, he will make sure that we have what we really need.—Heb. 13:5, 6.
Early Disciples Provide a Pattern
7. When Jesus sent the apostles to preach in Israel, what instructions did he give them, and why were these appropriate?
7 After Jesus had given his apostles suitable training he sent them out in Israel to preach good news. “The kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” What a thrilling message it was! Jesus Christ, the Messianic King, was in their midst. Since the apostles were devoting themselves to the service of God, Jesus urged them to have confidence that God would care for them. So he said: “Carry nothing for the trip, neither staff nor food pouch, nor bread nor silver money; neither have two undergarments. But wherever you enter into a home, stay there and leave from there.” (Matt. 10:5-10; Luke 9:1-6; 10:4-7) Jehovah would see to it that their needs would be satisfied through the hands of fellow Israelites, among whom hospitality to strangers was customary.
8. (a) Why did Jesus give different instructions shortly before his death? (b) Nevertheless, what was still to be in first place in their lives?
8 Later, just before his death, Jesus alerted his apostles to the fact that they would be working under changed circumstances. As a result of official opposition, hospitality might not be so readily extended in Israel. Also, they would soon be carrying the Kingdom message to Gentile lands. Now they were to take along a “purse” and a “food pouch.” Nevertheless, they were to keep on seeking first Jehovah’s Kingdom and his righteousness, confident that God would bless their efforts to obtain needed sustenance and covering.—Luke 22:35-37.
9. (a) How did Paul keep the Kingdom in first place? (b) How were his physical needs cared for? (c) What counsel did he give to others on these matters?
9 The apostle Paul gave a fine example of how to apply Jesus’ counsel. Paul built his life around the ministry. (Acts 20:24, 25) When he went into an area to preach he took care of his own material needs by working at tentmaking. He did not expect others to look after him. (Acts 18:1-4; 1 Thess. 2:9; 1 Cor. 9:18) Yet he gratefully accepted hospitality and gifts when others wanted to express their love and appreciation in this way. (Acts 16:15, 34; Phil. 4:15-17) He did not encourage Christian men and women to neglect their family obligations in order to go preaching, but rather to handle their varied responsibilities in a balanced way. He counseled them to work with their hands, to love their families and to be liberal in sharing with others. (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:7-12; Titus 2:3-5) He also urged them to put their confidence, not in material possessions, but in God and to use their lives in a way that showed that they really understood what the more important things in life are. In harmony with Jesus’ teachings, that meant seeking first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness.—Phil. 1:9-11.
Keep the Kingdom First in Your Life
10. (a) What does it mean to ‘seek first the Kingdom’? (b) But what should not be neglected?
10 To what extent do we personally share the Kingdom good news with others? That depends, in part, on our circumstances and, to a large extent, on the depth of our appreciation. Keep in mind that Jesus did not say, ‘Seek the Kingdom when you have nothing else to do.’ Neither did he say, ‘As long as you talk about the Kingdom once in a while, you are doing all that is necessary.’ Nor did he say, ‘Start out with zeal for Kingdom interests; but if the New Order seems long in coming, keep doing something in God’s service but live more like other people.’ Knowing well the importance of the Kingdom, he expressed his Father’s will in the matter, saying: “Seek continually his kingdom.” Or, as the apostle Matthew recorded it: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness.” (Luke 12:31; Matt. 6:33) Though most of us find it necessary to do some kind of work to care for the physical needs of ourselves and our families, if we truly have faith, our lives will revolve around the work that God has given us in connection with his Kingdom. At the same time we will not neglect our family responsibilities.—1 Tim. 5:8; Prov. 29:15.
11. (a) How did Jesus illustrate the fact that not all would be able to do the same amount in spreading the Kingdom message? (b) What factors have a bearing on this?
11 Some of us are able to devote more time than others can to the field ministry. But in his parable concerning various kinds of soil Jesus showed that all whose hearts are like fine soil will bear fruit. To what extent? The circumstances of individuals vary. Age, health and family responsibilities are all factors. But when there is genuine appreciation, much can be accomplished.—Matt. 13:19, 23.
12. What wholesome spiritual goal are young ones especially encouraged to consider?
12 It is good to have goals that will help us to expand our share in the Kingdom ministry. Young ones should think seriously about the excellent example of that zealous young Christian Timothy. (Phil. 2:19-22) What could be finer for them than to enter the full-time ministry when they complete their secular schooling? Older ones, too, will benefit by setting wholesome spiritual goals.
13. (a) Who decides what you personally are able to do in Kingdom service? (b) If we truly seek first the Kingdom, of what is this evidence?
13 Rather than criticizing those who we might feel could do more, we should be moved by faith to work for personal improvement so that we might serve God to the full extent that our own circumstances permit. (Rom. 14:10-12; Gal. 6:4) As shown in the case of Job, Satan contends that we are interested mainly in our material possessions, our own comfort and personal well-being, and that our motive in serving God is a selfish one. But if we truly seek first the Kingdom, we are having a share in proving the Devil to be the gross liar that he is. We are giving evidence that what comes first in our lives is neither material possessions nor personal comfort but the service of God. In word and deed we thus prove our deep love for Jehovah, our loyal support of his sovereignty and our love for fellowmen.—Prov. 27:11; Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5.
14. (a) Why is a schedule for field service beneficial? (b) To what extent are many Witnesses sharing in the field ministry, and why?
14 A schedule can help us to accomplish more than we might otherwise get done. Jehovah himself has ‘appointed times’ for the carrying out of his purpose, and we do well to imitate that. (Ex. 9:5; Mark 1:15; Gal. 4:4) If possible, it is good to share in the field ministry at one or more appointed times each week. Tens of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world have enrolled as auxiliary pioneers and enjoy spending two or more hours a day, on an average, in preaching the good news. Some do this regularly; others, a few times each year. Many thousands more serve as regular pioneers, using at least three hours a day, on an average, to proclaim the Kingdom message. Others, as special pioneers and missionaries, spend even more time in Kingdom service. And whether actually in the field ministry or not, we can seek opportunities to share the Kingdom hope on every suitable occasion with any who will listen. (Compare John 4:7-15.) We should all think seriously about the implications of Jesus’ prophecy that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” Our desire should be to have just as full a share in that work as our circumstances permit.—Matt. 24:14; Eph. 5:15-17.
15. In connection with our ministry, why do you feel that the counsel at 1 Corinthians 15:58 is timely?
15 Unitedly, in all parts of the earth, regardless of the nation in which they live, Jehovah’s Witnesses are actively sharing in this grand privilege of service. They apply to themselves the inspired Bible counsel: “Become steadfast, unmovable, always having plenty to do in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in connection with the Lord.”—1 Cor. 15:58.
● When Jesus said to seek first the Kingdom, what was he indicating should be put in a secondary place?
● What viewpoint should we have toward caring for the physical needs of ourselves and our families? What help will God give us?
● Does it make any difference how much we do in Kingdom service as long as we have some share? Why?