‘Keep On Seeking First the Kingdom’
1. (a) Why did Jesus urge his hearers to seek first the Kingdom? (b) What question should we ask ourselves?
OVER 1,900 years ago in a discourse in Galilee, Jesus urged his hearers: “Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.” But why such urgency? Was not the time for Christ to receive Kingdom power many centuries off? Yes, but the Messianic Kingdom was to be the means by which Jehovah would vindicate his sovereignty and fulfill his grand purpose for the earth. Anyone who truly appreciated the importance of those things would give the Kingdom first place in his life. If that was true in the first century, how much more so it is today, now that Christ has been enthroned as King! So the question is, Does my way of life show that I am seeking God’s Kingdom first?—Matthew 6:33.
2. What things do people in general eagerly pursue?
2 Today, millions of people throughout the world are, in fact, seeking first the Kingdom. They are showing their support of Kingdom rule by centering their lives on the doing of Jehovah’s will, having dedicated themselves to him. On the other hand, the vast majority of humankind is interested in seeking mundane things. People pursue money and the possessions and pleasures that money can buy. Or they put their main energies into furthering their careers. Their way of life reflects a preoccupation with themselves, material things, and pleasures. They put God in second place, if they believe in him at all.—Matthew 6:31, 32.
3. (a) What kind of treasures did Jesus encourage his disciples to seek, and why? (b) Why is there no need to be overly concerned about material things?
3 To his disciples, however, Jesus gave this counsel: “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth,” since none of such possessions last forever. “Rather,” he said, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven” by serving Jehovah. Jesus urged his followers to keep their eye “simple” by focusing attention and energies on 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. Jesus encouraged his followers to take a lesson from the flowers—God clothes them. 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.” (Matthew 6:19-34) Do your actions show that you believe that?
Do Not Let Kingdom Truth Be Choked Out
4. If a person puts too much emphasis on material things, what may be the outcome?
4 It is proper to be concerned about having enough to meet the material needs of oneself and one’s family. If a person is excessively concerned about material things, however, the results can be disastrous. Even though he may profess to believe in the Kingdom, if in his heart he puts other things first, Kingdom truth will be choked out. (Matthew 13:18-22) For example, on one occasion a rich young ruler asked Jesus: “What must I do to inherit everlasting life?” 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 order to become a follower of Christ. So he passed up an opportunity that could have led to his being with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom. 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 “the love of money” as a destructive snare?
5 Years later, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, who was then in Ephesus, a prosperous commercial center. Paul 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 to provide “sustenance and covering” for oneself and one’s family is proper. 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 may be followed by greater pressure, perhaps an opportunity for a promotion or a better job that pays more but demands time formerly set aside for spiritual matters. Unless we are on guard, “the love of money” can choke out the far more important Kingdom interests. Paul put it this way: “By reaching out for this love some have been led astray from the faith and have stabbed themselves all over with many pains.”—1 Timothy 6:7-10.
6. (a) To avoid being ensnared by materialism, what must we do? (b) What confidence can we have even 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 Timothy 6:11, 12) Earnest effort is needed if we are to avoid being swept along by the materialistic way of life of the world around us. But if we 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. Paul wrote: “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things. For [God] has said: ‘I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.’ So that we may be of good courage and say: ‘Jehovah is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5, 6) And King David wrote: “A young man I used to be, I have also grown old, and yet I have not seen anyone righteous left entirely, nor his offspring looking for bread.”—Psalm 37:25.
Early Disciples Provide a Pattern
7. What instructions regarding preaching did Jesus give his disciples, and why were these appropriate?
7 After Jesus gave his apostles suitable training, he sent them out in Israel to preach the good news and declare: “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.” (Matthew 10:5-10; Luke 9:1-6) Jehovah would see to it that their needs were satisfied at the hands of fellow Israelites, among whom hospitality to strangers was customary.
8. (a) Shortly before his death, why did Jesus give new preaching instructions? (b) What was still to be first in the lives of Jesus’ followers?
8 Later, just before his death, Jesus alerted his apostles to the fact that in the future they would be working under changed circumstances. As a result of official opposition to their activity, hospitality might not be so readily extended to them 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. How did Paul put the Kingdom first in his life while caring for his physical needs, and what counsel did he give on this matter?
9 The apostle Paul was a fine example of one who applied 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, even working at tentmaking. He did not expect others to look after him. (Acts 18:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 2:9) Yet, he gratefully accepted hospitality and gifts when others expressed their love in this way. (Acts 16:15, 34; Philippians 4:15-17) Paul encouraged Christians, not to neglect their family obligations in order to preach, but rather to balance their varied responsibilities. He counseled them to work, to love their families, and to share with others. (Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12) He urged them to put confidence in God, not in material possessions, and to use their lives in a way that showed that they really understood what the more important things are. In harmony with Jesus’ teachings, that meant seeking first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness.—Philippians 1:9-11.
Keep the Kingdom First in Your Life
10. What does it mean to seek first the Kingdom?
10 To what extent do we personally share the Kingdom good news with others? That depends, in part, on our circumstances and on the depth of our appreciation. Keep in mind that Jesus did not say, ‘Seek the Kingdom when you have nothing else to do.’ Knowing the importance of the Kingdom, he expressed his Father’s will, saying: “Seek continually his kingdom.” (Luke 12:31) Although most of us need to work to care for the needs of ourselves and our families, if we have faith, our lives will revolve around the Kingdom work that God has given us. At the same time, we will care for our family responsibilities.—1 Timothy 5:8.
11. (a) How did Jesus illustrate that not all would be able to do the same amount in spreading the Kingdom message? (b) What factors have a bearing on how much one can do?
11 Some of us are able to devote more time than others to preaching the good news of the Kingdom. 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.—Matthew 13:23.
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. (Philippians 2:19-22) What could be finer than for them 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 we are personally able to do in Kingdom service? (b) If we truly seek first the Kingdom, what do we prove?
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. (Romans 14:10-12; Galatians 6:4, 5) As shown in the case of Job, Satan contends that our main interests are our material possessions, our own comfort, and our personal well-being and that our motive in serving God is a selfish one. But if we are truly seeking 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 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.—Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5; Proverbs 27:11.
14. (a) Why is a schedule for the field ministry beneficial? (b) To what extent are many Witnesses sharing in the field ministry?
14 A schedule can help us to accomplish more than we might otherwise get done. Jehovah himself has “an appointed time” for carrying out his purpose. (Exodus 9:5; Mark 1:15) If possible, it is good to share in the field ministry at one or more appointed times each week. Hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world have enrolled as auxiliary pioneers, spending about two hours a day in preaching the good news. Hundreds of thousands of others serve as regular pioneers, using some two and a half hours a day to proclaim the Kingdom message. Special pioneers and missionaries spend even more time in Kingdom service. We can also seek opportunities to share the Kingdom hope informally with any who will listen. (John 4:7-15) Our desire should be to have as full a share in that work as our circumstances permit, for Jesus foretold: “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.”—Matthew 24:14; Ephesians 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 sharing in this 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 Corinthians 15:58.
• When Jesus said to keep on “seeking first the kingdom,” what was he indicating should be put in a secondary place?
• What should be our viewpoint toward caring for the physical needs of ourselves and our families? What help will God give us?
• In what features of Kingdom service can we share?
[Picture on page 107]
In every land, Jehovah’s Witnesses today are preaching the good news, before the end comes