In our Christian lexicon today, the word “striving” has gotten a bad rap. And understandably so. The idea of striving for God’s love is wholly wrought with images of buying indulgences from the church and works-based theology. But this morning, in my quiet time I was looking at one of my favorite verses: Matthew 6: 33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (For some reason, I remember this verse in the King James Version, go figure.) I got to thinking about the word, “seek” used here and decided to look it up. And there, in black and white is the Greek translation for “seek” – “Zeteo”- which means “to STRIVE.” The whole definition is: “to deliberately strive and desire something as an act of will.” Hmmm. How do we reconcile these two truths – God’s love is a gift, but one that we must deliberately strive for?
One of my favorite people of all time is my Great-Grandmother’s sister. I was named for her, and I called her “Aunt Sally”. I spent many weeks each summer with her and adored her. She was 4 foot 9 and absolutely the most kind, spunky, and God-fearing person I know. She lived to be 107 – so I often tell Bruce that he is stuck with me for the long haul – I have “Sally” longevity running through my veins! Anyway, when Aunt Sally died several years ago, she left me her beautiful engagement ring and another ring, made into a necklace. These pieces of jewelry are certainly of immeasurable worth to me. So much so that I wear both nearly every day. One day, I realized that my necklace wasn’t in its usual place of honor on my nightstand. I searched everywhere – emptying trashcans, flipping mattresses, emptying drawers. No necklace. Needless to say, I was despondent over the loss. So much so that I dreamed of finding the necklace and cried when I woke up to realize the dream wasn’t reality.
That, my friends, is the type of seeking that I think Jesus was referring to in Matthew 6;33. Not so much working for the kingdom of God, but rather searching tirelessly for it. I remember Ben, at age 3, would play “hide and seek” and I would search for him – find him, chase him, oh the fun. Until he did it in Target. I searched for that child hysterically and would not leave until I found him. Now, you could say I was working for Ben in that moment, but realistically, I was seeking something I loved and refused to stop until he was found. He was my first priority, my only priority.
Friends, we needn’t work for God’s love – it is right there. We are broken, though, and some even say that we leak. And, as leaking vessels, we must will ourselves to prioritize the finding of God’s kingdom by refilling with it every day, Thankfully, God’s love isn’t like a necklace. It is ALWAYS near. We can ALWAYS find it. And the joy when we find it is indescribable. Like Jesus said in the Parable of the Hidden Treasure: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Matthew 13:44.
So, last night, I was watching a movie with my daughter. In walked my son – holding my necklace. It had somehow made its way into his room and fallen behind his bed. Sweet friends, the joy I felt in finding that lost beloved object was almost overwhelming. In fact, if possible, I think I now value the necklace even more.
So, my prayer for us today is a hard prayer, it is a big prayer, but it is a simple prayer. I pray that God puts, in each of our hearts, the deep urgency to scour our lives looking for Him. Because, when we find Him, the joy is that much greater for the searching.