September 19, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 12:29-31 (NRSV)
And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Jesus tells his disciples to strive for God’s kingdom. We do this by seeking intentionally, energetically, and consistently to live under God’s reign in every part of life. You can strive for God’s kingdom at work and at home, in your neighborhood and in your church, in your relationships and in your finances, in your volunteering and your citizenship. It’s about putting God first, always and everywhere.
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
In several recent devotions, we have been focusing on a passage from Luke 12 in which Jesus urges us not to worry. After offering several reasons why worry is unnecessary and unhelpful, he exhorts us to reorient the focus of our lives. Rather than striving for the material stuff like those who do not know the Lord, Jesus tells us to “strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:31).
Years ago, when I first read the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) translation of Luke 12:31, I was a little peeved. I had been very familiar with the language of the RSV, which read, “Seek his kingdom,” not “strive for.” I was even more familiar with the parallel text in Matthew that read in the RSV, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). That also changed in the NRSV to “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Why did they have to mess with such a familiar verse? I wondered. (Plus, are we now supposed to sing, “Strive ye first for the kingdom of God” rather than “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”?)
Well, since my initial unhappiness with the NRSV’s use of “strive,” I’ve done some further thinking about it and I must admit that I support it. “Strive,” in my opinion, actually does a better job conveying Jesus’s meaning than “Seek.” Let me explain why.
First of all, though the Greek-English lexicon does give “try to find, seek, look for” as the first definition of the Greek verb zēteō, the verb that appears in Luke 12:31, it also gives this option, “to devote serious effort to realize one’s desire or objective, strive for, aim (at), try to obtain, desire, wish (for).” It seems pretty clear to me that Jesus was not encouraging us to “try to find” or to “look for” the kingdom of God. He surely meant something like “devote serious effort” to entering and living in the kingdom. “Strive” suggests more intentionality, more exertion” than “seek.” It conveys accurately, I believe, what Jesus was saying to his disciples, including us.
So then, how do we strive for the kingdom of God? In last Thursday’s devotion I explained that the kingdom of God isn’t the same as heaven. Seeking first the kingdom does not mean “Prioritize going to heaven when you die.” The kingdom of God isn’t the same as the world filled with God’s justice and peace, either, though these things are connected. Seeking first the kingdom is not a matter of making the world a more just and peaceful place. Rather, according to Jesus, the kingdom of God is God’s reign, God’s rule, God’s authority, God’s sovereignty. Now, when God reigns fully and finally, we will experience what we call heaven, and the earth will be filled with God’s justice and peace. But these are implications of the kingdom. These come along when God reigns.
You can strive for the kingdom of God by seeking intentionally, energetically, and consistently to live under God’s reign in every part of your life. You can strive for God’s will at work and at home, in your neighborhood and in your church, in your relationships and in your finances, in your volunteering and your citizenship. It’s about putting God first, always and everywhere.
Striving for the kingdom of God is another way of talking about what Christians often call living under the lordship of Christ. When we acknowledge that Jesus is Lord over everything, including every part of our lives, and when we seek to submit to his lordship in all we do, we are striving for the kingdom of God.
So, no matter where you are or what you are doing today, you can strive for the kingdom by offering all that you are to the Lord, seeking to honor him in every part of your life, striving to follow his guidance at all times. You can begin to do this today—well, right now, actually. Or, maybe you’ve already been striving for the kingdom today. If so, way to go! Keep it up!
In what ways are you already striving for God’s reign in your life?
Are there areas of life in which you rarely think about God’s rule?
What might it look like for you to seek God’s kingdom in your workplace? In your family? In your neighborhood? In your citizenship?
As you begin the new day, tell God you want to strive for his reign. Ask for God’s help. Submit your whole self to God, to God’s purposes and glory.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, in my life today:
In my work and my rest,
In my actions and my relationships,
In my hoping and my spending,
In every moment of this day, by your grace. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Is the Kingdom of God Part of My Daily Life?
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Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.