I remember singing that song, circa 1985:
Seek ye-e first the-uh ki-ing-dom of God,
and Hi-is right-eous-ne-ess,
and all these things shall be added unto you,
When we got really good at it, the men and women sang different parts. Well, the guys sang the same thing they always had, but the girls threw the alleluia up an octave over the whole thing, like this:
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m sorry. I hope you keep reading, because knowing the tune of that chorus has no bearing on the application of this post. If you do know it, it makes me happy to know that you just sang with me in your head (or maybe even out loud). It was a crossover song…a few lines of Scripture set to music before worship choruses became cool. It wasn’t in the Baptist Hymnal (yet), but it was based on the King James Version of the Bible, so people tended to be okay with it. I’m not sure how it would’ve gone without that “ye” in there. I’m thinking that God led the author to write it that way because He had big plans ahead for His church, and He knew we needed to take baby steps to get there. Seek Ye First was one of the first steps on the road to singing contemporary worship songs in big church, even if it was played on an organ.
I never thought very deeply about the words of that song as I sang them. My 16-year-old brain summed it up this way: “Live a good life, enjoy God’s favor.” Plus, I was pouring most of my attention into raising my eyebrows so I could get those alleluias up high enough. Or, tucking my chin so that I could sing low with the guys, making my friends laugh and my mom clear her throat at me from the choir loft. Back then, the choir didn’t come down and leave the building after the last song. No, they stayed up there through the whole service, pretending to be interested as they stared at the back of the preacher’s head.
I digress. I just finished up a writing assignment that had me in the book of Haggai. And Haggai’s two chapter message is, basically, Matthew 6:33. Only it doesn’t mean what I thought it meant.
Read Hag. 1:2-9 and 2:18-19. God’s people were doing their own thing, chasing the Jerusalem dream – planting, eating, drinking, looking good, gettin’ paper (that’s teen-speak for “money,” in case ya’ didn’t know). They had gotten discouraged and were distracted from doing what God had called them to do, which was to rebuild the temple. So they chased other pursuits, much like the kind we chase today, and God let them. They weren’t bad things they were chasing. They were good things, but they weren’t God’s things. They were working hard, living good lives, but they had set God’s agenda aside. They poured all their energy into those worldly pursuits, but God wouldn’t bless any of it. The result is that they found themselves in a continuous frustrating cycle – never having enough, always wanting more. The Jerusalem dream turned out to be elusive. Putting God and His will first, though? That’s a pursuit that would bring satisfaction. He’d bless them when they made Him their priority.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘All right, then, have it your way.'” Haggai and C.S. Lewis got me thinking about Matthew 6:33 and those song lyrics. To seek God and His righteousness first means that His will takes priority over ours. Being tired or discouraged or distracted might be valid excuses to our family and friends, but they’re not to God. If He is Alpha and Omega, then His purposes are greater than ours. If He is love, then a life centered on His priorities is more fulfilling than any other. If we trust Him as Savior, then we have courage to live differently. If we know He is Lord, then we will follow His lead.
What would it look like for you to seek Him first today?