Striving for the Kingdom of God

Do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matt 6:31-34

This passage is one of the several suggested Scripture readings for the “Prayers at the Close of Day” in the Book of Common Worship, Daily Prayer. These three verses from Matthew are part of a much larger section that begins at 6:25 and extends to verse 34. ( you can read all of it, here. ) And that passage is part of the Sermon on the Mount which is chapters 5,6,and 7 of Matthew’s Gospel.

So, these few verses are part of a larger, more complex section of the Gospel. There is much that can be written about them, in fact entire books have been written on the Sermon on the Mount. I simply have an observation to offer in this little reflection.

As I read those few verses (31-34) again the other night, I realized that – in spite of knowing better- I tend to read “Kingdom of God” as if it meant “otherworldly” or  “heavenly” or “spiritual” things and by implication, split my life into spiritual and material parts. If I get the “heavenly” part right, God will give me the material stuff.  But that’s not correct.

It’s not a choice between spiritual and material.

It’s all spiritual.

It’s all material.

The kingdom of God is not an otherworldly, spiritual place. It’s not a place that becomes real sometime in the future. It is a place where now, right now, God’s will is done. When Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God, he is talking about God’s reign “on earth as it is in heaven”. That’s the hope, that’s the future, and the present. But what is it, the Kingdom of God?

Jesus shows us what the Kingdom of God looks like by what he does. The hungry are fed, the naked clothed, the marginalized and outcast are welcomed ( along with the rich and powerful, yes all of us are invited to be part of the kingdom). In the Kingdom of God  no one worries about food or clothing or shelter. There is plenty for all.  When we strive for the Kingdom of God, part of what that means is that we strive for food, clothing and shelter for all. Seeking the Kingdom of God means those things are taken care of, not by divine magic but because the people of God are living justly.

Striving for the Kingdom of God means being focused on living in the reality of the kingdom of God- where our hearts and our treasure are.

Not possessed by possessions.

Not consumed by consumption.

We are to move away from the emptiness that we try to fill with material goods. To move away from envy and greed which keep us from being focused on the needs of others. We are to seek a different life. When we are seeking the flourishing of everyone, everyone will have food and clothing. In meeting other’s needs, our needs will also be met.

 It is an odd way to live, focused outward. Focused on others. Our culture tells us to focus on ourselves. My wants, my needs, my desires. But Jesus tells us the kingdom of God is a different sort of place. ” Do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?’ or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

10 thoughts on “Striving for the Kingdom of God

  1. I love this and how it touches on justice and the issues of idolatry! In particular, I like the quote “Not possessed by possessions. Not consumed by consumption.” It’s really great! Thanks!

  2. For some time now I’ve believed that when Jesus would say, “the kingdom of heaven is within you”, or “near you” that he was talking about the kingdom of heaven here on earth – here and now. Now is when we need to start making those changes and not wait for some otherworldly, afterlife experience. And by God’s grace we can – it is possible. Thank you for bringing that out.

    1. For some reason, when I read “the kingdom of God” in other places in the Bible, I could make the connection to earth. For some reason, I hadn’t made the leap with that passage I wrote about until recently. I think you’re correct, with God’s help, we’re charged with making changes and living -as best we can- in the kingdom. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

  3. This is a great perspective, Nancy. It reminds me of some great passages in Barth’s little book ‘Prayer’ on the Lord’s Prayer, though I don’t have it on me at the moment. One thing which has also struck me about these verses is the combined wording of seeking both God’s kingdom and righteousness. It seems a rather helpful way of reuniting the personal sanctification and social gospel divide which often exists.

  4. Wonderful perspective Nancy. For whatever reason, but you rekindled a thought I was recently thinking about. The God Kingdom and God’s grace is for all … for everyone … NOT everyone but … or everyone except … just everyone … which means all! … and our materialistic focus for now is an extension of your thought.

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