Keeping Kingdom Interests First
“Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:33.
1. What is the general attitude toward God’s kingdom, and in what position do most men find themselves?
MOST people find little place in their lives for God’s kingdom under Christ. More particularly, those who shape the thinking of this world have no interest in that kingdom. Furthermore, they are determined to prevent as many others as possible from becoming interested. To keep men in subjection, those responsible for world affairs have obtained a strangle hold on man’s interests. The way of life they have arranged for him forces him into certain channels that he feels he must follow if he is to survive. As a result, and often as a defense measure, he becomes blinded to any other possibility and continues to follow the course laid out for him as the way of least resistance.
2. What course must men follow to remain free from demon-controlled thinking, and what assurance did Jesus give of the wisdom of that course?
2 Over and above all these is the god of this world, whose main interest is to turn all peoples away from the Kingdom, which God now holds out as the way of salvation. If, therefore, anyone is to move in the same cycle of activity as this world without being sucked into the whirlpool of demon-controlled thinking, he must keep the interests of God’s kingdom foremost in his life. That is the course Jesus outlined for Christians when he said: “Stop being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your bodies as to what you will wear. Does not the soul mean more than food and the body than clothing? Observe intently the birds of heaven, because they do not sow seed or reap or gather into storehouses; still your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than they are? Who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span? Also on the matter of clothing, why are you anxious? Take a lesson from the lilies of the field, how they are growing; they do not toil nor do they spin, but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. If, now, God thus clothes the vegetation of the field which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much rather clothe you, you with little faith? So never be anxious and say: ‘What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to put on?’ For all these are the things the nations are eagerly pursuing. For your heavenly Father knows you need all these things. Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matt. 6:25-33.
3. To whom did Jesus give this counsel, and on what does following it depend?
3 This commandment from Jehovah’s chief representative of his kingdom contains the promise that God will deliver from this world’s clutches and provide for the needs of all those who obey His law and put the interests of His government first in their lives. (Ps. 18:20; Prov. 13:13; Heb. 11:6) Jesus was not here speaking just to those who were already Jehovah’s servants. The words of this commandment are a part of his “sermon on the mount” and he was speaking down through the centuries to men of all nations who are seeking a better life in God’s way. For that reason all professed followers of Christ Jesus today would do well to consider these words seriously as measured against their own interests and position in this world. Jehovah’s ability to provide is beyond question, as Jesus here points out; so no one need feel any dependency on this world. The Christian’s course, then, becomes entirely a matter of faith and of his willingness to make his own interests secondary to those of God’s kingdom.
4. What relationship should exist between the Kingdom interests and one’s own personal interests?
4 Taking this view, every interest the Christian has becomes a Kingdom interest. As Paul put it: “Whatever you are doing, work at it whole-souled as to Jehovah.” (Col. 3:23) Food is acquired not just for self-gratification, but that the Christian might be physically strengthened for his assigned work in the ministry. The Christian’s interest in secular employment will be only to the extent necessary to clothe and house himself and his family for his continued service to God. Business advancement will not be his main interest. Even his social activities will be strictly guarded and brought under complete control so that his thinking on Kingdom activity will be stimulated and properly directed. Devotion to Kingdom interests brings a life that is sustaining. Greed and selfishness bring many sorrows. As Paul admonishes: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency.”—1 Tim. 6:6.
5. How did Noah furnish an example of the proper balance of interests?
5 Proper balance becomes a matter of faith, and if we have faith like that of Noah we can live in the midst of a world whose God-given interests have been diverted to personal and selfish ends and we can still maintain our balance and our interests in our God-given responsibilities. Noah did. Noah was a married man and so were his sons. Yet his family interests, his need to provide food and drink for his family, did not interfere with his God-given assignment of building an ark. He kept his mind on his work and it prospered and Noah survived the end of a world. Because of his putting Kingdom interests first Noah is called a preacher of righteousness, and Paul says of him: “By faith Noah . . . condemned the world, and he became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” (2 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 11:7) Not only was Noah an example to the world in which he lived, but the testimony of Christ Jesus marks him as an example to this present system of things. (Matt. 24:37-39) Those who put the interests of God’s kingdom first, therefore, need feel no fear of insecurity.
6. Why do Jehovah’s witnesses take the attitude they do toward governments of this world, yet how do some persons view their attitude?
6 Because Jehovah’s witnesses have made the interests of God’s kingdom first in their lives, some uninformed persons view with suspicion their relationship and attitude toward the governments of this world. If these nations were self-sufficient and able to provide the needs of the people, then God’s kingdom would not be necessary. Yet Jesus taught his followers to pray for God’s kingdom to come so that God’s will might be done upon earth. (Matt. 6:10) Certainly Christians cannot be condemned for relying upon and working toward the hope expressed in this prayer. Those looking to the governments of this world would do well to ask themselves, If Jesus were here today, which nation’s flag would he salute? Which country would he fight for? Which political party would he vote for? There is no point in the argument that it is different with Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said: “A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone that is perfectly instructed will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40) The sincere follower of Jesus Christ will be interested in His view of matters and endeavor to take exactly the course that Jesus himself would take. Many professed Christians would not bow before or salute a picture of Christ Jesus as representing God’s government. To them it would be an act of idolatry. Yet they will perform similar acts before an emblem of a nation of this world. For those who put the interests of God’s kingdom first all of such acts are inconsistent with the Lord’s prayer and with the principles of God’s Word and mean a subverting of God’s interests to another sovereign. This the Christian cannot do in true conscience to God’s kingdom.
7. Why are Jehovah’s witnesses no security risk to any nation in keeping first the interests of God’s kingdom?
7 Such exclusive devotion to God and the interests of his kingdom does not constitute a security risk to any nation. Jesus Christ was not subversive though he was so accused by his religious opposers. (Luke 23:2) He refused to become politically active in this world’s affairs because, as he said: “No one can be a slave to two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24) It is because of such admonition by Jesus that Jehovah’s witnesses have refused to mix these interests in government. But this does not make them subversive. The refusal of Jehovah’s witnesses in the past to fulfill such patriotic duties as voting, saluting a flag or participation in the armed forces, is an insurance to every country that Jehovah’s witnesses will not endanger the security of that nation, because they have been refraining from the same activities in all other countries at the same time. Hence the threat of aggression on the part of any nation will not be the responsibility of Jehovah’s witnesses. It is not Jehovah’s witnesses who pose the serious problem to a nation. Their stand of neutrality worldwide is a pledge of noninterference, of nonaggression more binding and dependable than all the treaties that could be signed by such “enemy” states, because it is based on exclusive devotion to God and to the interests of his kingdom. These bonds cannot be broken with impunity.
8. In what way are the false religions of this world different in their responsibility for the security of the nations?
8 Those religions that are the most reprehensible are those that meddle in the politics of all nations and therefore help shape the thinking of those nations, even those opposing each other. Yet these are the most prominent religions, the ones most honored among men. Of course, they disclaim any responsibility if a country becomes an aggressor and they try to wash their hands clean. But the blood of the young men who follow them as “spiritual guides” rises up to heaven from both sides of the battle line, “Christian” brother killing “Christian” brother. (Isa. 1:15) Failure on the part of such “accepted” religions to keep the interests of God’s kingdom first has kept the earth bathed in innocent blood. Progressive, practical-minded persons will give such matters serious consideration before condemning Jehovah’s witnesses for putting the interests of God’s government above those of every nation of the earth.
9. What reason do some persons give for not listening to the Kingdom message, yet how do Jehovah’s witnesses regard such reasons?
9 Many persons unacquainted with the purpose and work of Jehovah’s witnesses believe that their own membership in some religious denomination is valid reason for refusing to consider the message of God’s kingdom as presented by Jehovah’s witnesses. When anyone says to the Witnesses that he is a member of some church organization, they always assume that that church member is sincere in his belief. Nevertheless, since the Witness is dedicated to keep the interests of God’s kingdom first, he will encourage that person to consider the scriptures he has for his attention.
10. How were Jesus and John the Baptist viewed by many Jews, and what did these Jews lose out on as a result?
10 Jesus set the example in his day. Himself a Jew, he spent the three and a half years of his ministry preaching the good news of God’s kingdom to the Jews. To them this was a new doctrine. To them it was a change from the Law God had given them through Moses. To many Jews Jesus Christ and those who followed him were apostates and therefore to be shunned or put to death. But to those who refused to be turned aside by such bitterness, who listened and weighed his words carefully in the light of the Law of Moses and the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, he established himself as truly God’s representative and the one authorized to bear God’s message to them. Even John the Baptist, Jesus’ forerunner, who was not calling on the Jews to accept a new covenant, as Jesus did later, was rejected by the religious Pharisees and Sadducees because he called for honest-hearted Jews to forsake the traditions and practices that had been built up over the centuries by the religious leaders. Those too blind or engrossed in their own interests even to hear him lost the opportunity that had been uppermost as a hope for the Jewish nation since the days of Moses, that of meeting the Messiah on his arrival.
11. On the basis of what arguments might these Jews have felt justified in their course, yet how did Jesus demonstrate their lack of appreciation?
11 Some of the Jews no doubt felt justified in such a course. Was not their nation established on God’s own Law through Moses? Was not the very position occupied by their leaders ordained of God? Yet when Jesus presented himself as the long-looked-for Messiah he did not turn to these men who claimed to sit in Moses’ seat. He could not make Kingdom heirs out of those whose interests were opposed to God’s government. Instead, he gathered to himself fishermen, despised tax collectors and others of low reputation among the people. By this choice of his apostles he demonstrated that acceptance by God is an individual matter based upon faith and upon works consistent with that faith, not upon position or upon a false “pedigree” of religious ancestors.
12. (a) Why did the Jews have no excuse for not accepting Jesus as the Messiah, and how is their responsibility viewed by Christians today? (b) What questions should all professing Christians ask themselves today, and what are they in danger of losing out on?
12 But God did not overlook or excuse the Jews’ refusal to investigate the works of his Messiah. Jesus had urged them: “If I am not doing the works of my Father, do not believe me. But if I am doing them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, in order that you may grasp the fact and may continue knowing that the Father is in union with me and I am in union with the Father.” (John 10:37, 38) Today all Christians claim to recognize the value of the work Jesus did among the Jews. That is because today we have the advantage in perspective of centuries of time. But we might well ask ourselves, If we had lived in Jesus’ day would our decision have been as simple? The answer to that question might be found in our attitude today toward the interests of God’s kingdom. Can we truly say we are being honest with God, or with ourselves? Are we allowing ourselves to be blinded or turned aside by men whose divided interests disqualify them as spiritual advisers in the exclusive worship of God and devotion to his kingdom interests? If we are, then we are certain to lose the opportunity that has been uppermost as a hope for the Christian congregation since Jesus’ first advent, that of welcoming him on his return and entering into the blessings of his kingdom rule.
13. How did Paul and Peter warn of the danger of losing out on this Christian hope?
13 Paul warned against the man “that will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” (Col. 2:8) Such are like those Peter spoke of when he said: “For you know this first, that in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’” (2 Pet. 3:3, 4; Ezek. 13:8, 16) These completely discount the Kingdom message and refuse to give heed to all the evidences pointing to Christ’s presence and continue ensnared to this system of things.
14. What other view stumbles some as to Christ’s presence, and on the basis of what misunderstanding do they take this position?
14 Others are stumbled by the view that Christ is not present now but will shortly come. They base their position on the evidence Jesus gave in pointing to his return, recognizing these conditions as being here now. However, such persons fail to realize that these evidences were given by Jesus to testify to the fact that he would already have returned, not that his return would follow such evidences. The disciples asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the consummation of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) The fact that Christ cannot now be seen does not argue against his actual presence along with these evidences. For if he had intended to be visibly recognized by men at his return, why would he have needed a sign?
15 Some who argue for a visible return quote Revelation 1:7, which says: “Look! he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.” (Rev. 1:7) Yet Jesus clearly stated before his death: “A little longer and the world will behold me no more.” (John 14:19) This being true, it becomes clear that the statement in Revelation speaks of seeing him with the eye of understanding. Otherwise, the words of Paul at 1 Timothy 6:14-16 would be meaningless when he speaks of Christ Jesus and describes him as the one “who dwells in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see.” That it is possible for Christ to visit mankind and still be unseen is clear from the record of Israel where it clearly states in many instances that God visited the nation, yet was unseen. (Gen. 50:24; Ruth 1:6) All students of the Bible will readily admit that no man can see God and live; yet Paul, when writing to the Hebrews, said of Jesus: “He is the reflection of his [that is, God’s] glory and the exact representation of his very being.” (Heb. 1:3) God’s Son thus being transformed into this express likeness of God at his resurrection, it is clear why this “world will behold” him “no more.” Such an inaccurate view of Christ’s return, therefore, should not be allowed to blind one to the truths of God’s Word and of his kingdom. Personal or private views that interfere with the clear vision of God’s kingdom must be set aside in order to gain salvation.
16. What appeal do Jehovah’s witnesses make to all lovers of righteousness?
16 Jehovah’s witnesses appeal to sincere lovers of righteousness regardless of their religious background to consider the facts now available that point to this generation as the time for Christ’s return and for the fulfillment of God’s promises to mankind. (Matt. 24:1-51) Consider, for instance, the Lord’s model prayer. Jesus pointed in the direction of the divine will when he taught us to pray: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) Is God’s will being done on earth today, filled as this world is with the oppression of communism, hot and cold wars, delinquency on all social levels, and disease ravaging the peoples of all nations? Let sincere persons turn to 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and read these same conditions foretold by God as a warning to us to turn aside from this world and look away from it for the fulfilling of the divine will. Turning aside from empty promises of men, let such sincere persons lift up their hearts in response to God’s promise of a new earth as pointed out to them from the Bible by Jehovah’s witnesses. Let such read from their own Bibles God’s assurance that righteousness will prevail throughout all the earth, that man will live in peace and prosperity without fear for all time to come.—2 Pet. 3:13; Isa. 66:22; Ps. 78:69; Rev. 21:1-4.
17. How should the issue confronting the world today be met?
17 Now let such sincere members of the world’s religions ask themselves, Is this not a worth-while hope? Is it not a worth-while effort to consider such promises of God? Would it not be short-sighted to ignore such hope of blessings and the organization that points the way to realization of these hopes? Truly can it be said that God’s sheep have been scattered and are ravished by this world and, as Jesus’ heart turned to them in pity, so today the Great Shepherd, Jehovah God, through his shepherd Son Jesus Christ, turns the attention of his witnesses to all corners of the world to proclaim the truth that will set them free. (John 8:32) How foolish is the irresponsible attitude of some who say: “I’ll do the best I can now and take my chances when the time comes”! This is the course of least resistance, and all who follow it are certain to fall into the snare set by the god of this world. The issue that confronts the world today must be met with positive action on the part of all those who sincerely desire to keep God’s kingdom interests first in their lives.