The Consecrated Life

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”
—Matthew 6:33

PUTTING FIRST THINGS first is generally recognized as being a sound principle to follow. To be successful in business, it is essential that the primary needs of the business be given preference over personal likes and conveniences. The same is true in every walk of life—in the home, in social life, and in relationships between employer and employee.

‘Seeking’ the kingdom of God is a full-time, all-absorbing occupation for every consecrated believer in Christ. It is not seeking the kingdom from the standpoint of endeavoring to be worthy of enjoying the blessings of the kingdom when those blessings begin to flow out to the people. It refers, rather, to a determined effort to be worthy of joint-heirship with Jesus, to reign with him as kings and priests in that promised ‘government.’ Only a few will attain to such a high position. These are addressed by Jesus as a “little flock.” (Luke 12:32) This glorious ‘prize of the High Calling of God’ will be a ‘gift’ in the sense that there is nothing any of us could do to really earn such a royal position. On the other hand, the Lord does offer us the opportunity to demonstrate our love and loyalty to him through the faithful devotion of our all to his cause, even life itself.

It seems like a simple test of worthiness, but when we endeavor actually to carry out these terms of discipleship they are found to be very exacting. Probably the high cost of the consecrated life has had much to do with making the ‘little flock’ so ‘little.’


The Lord does not wish anyone to enter upon the consecrated life blindly, for he invites those who are considering it to sit down and count “the cost.” (Luke 14:28) This appraisal is not made with the view of satisfying ourselves that what we will gain will be of far greater value than what we give up. Those who, through the influence of the truth, reach this point of decision in their lives, have already been convinced that the heavenly reward is of far greater value than the blessings of restitution for the world of mankind. What they need to ‘count’ or ‘consider’ is whether or not they will be able faithfully to meet all the obligations which the terms of their consecration will place upon them.

Jesus’ disciples believed that he had been sent by God to be the King and Christ of promise. They expected that he would set up a government in Judea that would extend its sphere of influence to the whole world. They were doubtless greatly inspired by all his wonderful teachings pertaining to the kingdom, although they failed to understand much that he said. However, they did grasp the idea, and rightly so, that he was offering them the opportunity to share the glory of his kingdom with him.

This is why they disputed among themselves as to which of them would be greatest in the kingdom. It was for this reason, also, that two of the disciples made the request to sit, one on Jesus’ right hand and the other on his left hand in the kingdom. On no occasion did Jesus discourage his disciples from entertaining the hope of sharing in the glories of his kingdom. Rather, he encouraged them in this hope, assuring them that it was the “Father’s good pleasure” (Luke 12:32) that they should be joint-heirs with him.


But Jesus did explain to his disciples, and to us, that to secure such a high position of honor in the Divine arrangement would be very costly. “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of,” he asked them, “and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” (Matt. 20:22) Those to whom this question was first asked replied, “We are able.” (vs. 22) Thousands since have given the same answer, and have undertaken to carry out the conditions, but many have fallen by the wayside, having become “weary in well doing.”—Gal. 6:9; II Thess. 3:13

Let us take a look at that ‘cup’ of which the Master spoke. It is, of course, a symbolic cup, being suggestive of the sum total of his experiences in doing the Father’s will. It was a ‘cup’ which his Father had poured for him, a way of life from Jordan to the cross which was not planned by him, but by his Father.—John 18:11

Jesus had relatives and friends. He loved his parents and brethren. From the natural standpoint, he would have preferred a course in life which would have taken these into account and permitted him to enjoy their fellowship and friendship. But he could not follow his natural inclinations. He had come to do his Father’s will, and to drink the ‘cup’ which the Father had poured for him. To be faithful to this purpose resulted in the severance of many earthly ties, the giving up of the security of a home and family and becoming literally a pilgrim and a stranger in the earth. “The foxes have holes,” the Master said, “… but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”—Matt. 8:20; Luke 9:58

Had Jesus used his pleasing personality and the miracle-working power which had been given to him, merely to appeal to the public, he soon could have become the most popular person in all Israel. Influenced by these qualities, many did follow him for a time. But Jesus also was given a message to proclaim. He exposed popular error, and was an unflinching advocate of unpopular truth. He was able to read the hearts of his enemies, and knew that they were hypocrites, and told them so.

This evoked their bitter animosity, and finally cost him his life. But it was all a part of the cup which the Father had poured out for him; so he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.—Phil. 2:8

Are we able to drink of this cup?

We say so to God when we make our consecration, and we mean it—but how well are we doing with the undertaking? Perhaps we can measure the degree of our success by making a check as to whether or not, in keeping with our text, we are seeking ‘first’ the kingdom of God. We cannot drink from the Master’s cup and at the same time be sampling other cups. Doing the will of God was the first consideration of Jesus’ life, and it must be first with us, or else we are not living up to the terms of our consecration. Paul expressed the thought, saying, “This one thing I do.”—Phil. 3:13


When we make a consecration to do the Lord’s will, we begin to set our affections on things above, which means that earthly things should lose their attraction for us. (Col. 3:1-10) But herein lies the principal struggle of the entire Christian life. It is one in which we come to grips with realities, and are called upon to deal with them upon the basis of faith and the true spirit of sacrifice. In it we frequently are torn between the desire for material things, and the assurances given to us by the promises of God. The strength which will overcome in this struggle is our faith.

Jesus brought this into a very practical area of understanding by admonishing us to “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.” (Matt. 6:25) This is what we are not to do. Instead, we are to ‘seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’

It is all a matter of what we make the first consideration of life. In elaborating the lesson, Jesus said that the ‘Gentiles’ seek after food, raiment, and other material things of life, meaning that the unconsecrated make these their first, or primary, consideration. This is natural and proper for them. They want to feel secure for tomorrow, and, if possible, for the day after tomorrow.

In these ‘last days,’ the problem of living has become so complex that in many countries the government has stepped into the picture, and through a cooperative arrangement provides for “Social Security,” “Unemployment Insurance,” and other measures calculated to give the Gentiles the assurance that they will continue to eat and to be clothed.

The consecrated benefit from these arrangements, even though food, clothing, and housing are to them merely secondary considerations. We realize that we need to eat, that our bodies have to be clothed and sheltered. These needs are very real, and affect us so vitally that it becomes a severe test of our faith to rise above them and to seek ‘first’ the kingdom of God. In our Morning Resolve we say, “My earliest thought I desire shall be, What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits?” This is the proper attitude for those who are seeking first the kingdom of God, but often we find that our earliest thoughts are concerned with the secondary matters of life, that we are ‘taking thought’ for these just as the Gentiles do.


When Jesus said that we should take no ‘thought’ for our life, he used a Greek word which means ‘anxious thought’ or, as we would say, ‘to worry.’ It is essentially the same word as used by the Apostle Peter, and translated, ‘care,’ when he wrote, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (I Pet. 5:7) Paul used the same word when he wrote, “Be not anxious about anything; but in everything let your petitions be made known to God, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving.”—Phil. 4:6, Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott

A farmer must sow if he expects to reap. In all walks of life it is essential to give some consideration today to what our needs will be tomorrow. If one is consecrated, he need not give anxious thought or be worried, for he can cast all his care upon the Lord. Worry cripples the mind and paralyzes action. If we concern ourselves too much with what we shall eat and wherewithal we shall be clothed, our real objective in life will be set aside, made secondary, or perhaps neglected almost entirely.

Paul assures us that if we are not anxious about anything and are thankful for the blessings provided by the Lord, then the “peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7) With this peace of God ruling in our hearts we are in a position to concentrate our thoughts on the things pertaining to the kingdom. So, logically, Paul admonishes us to “think on these things.”—Phil. 4:8

There is no mistaking the end result in Christian thought and action of casting all our care upon the Lord, and therefore not being worried about the material needs of life. Paul climaxed his admonition along this line by writing, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.”—Phil. 4:9

How plainly stated! If we want the ‘God of peace’ to rule in our hearts, giving us the peace which passeth all human understanding, there are ‘things’ for us to ‘do’—the ‘things’ which we have ‘learned,’ and ‘received,’ and ‘heard,’ and ‘seen’ exemplified in the life of Paul.


This is merely another way of saying that we should follow the example of Christ. We have many noble examples of those who followed Christ, and Paul is one of them. He knew that according to the flesh, it was not an easy way; but instead, it was a way of sacrifice, of weariness, of suffering. But Paul wanted to ‘know’ Jesus in the sense of having a fellowship or partnership in his suffering. This was the ‘one thing’ which dominated his thinking, his planning, and his action.

Not all in the Early Church were of this persuasion. There were nominal believers then, even as now. Paul tells us about this, saying, “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”—Phil. 3:17-19

We are not to suppose from this description that the ones Paul refers to were morally corrupt. It is just that he uses very strong language to emphasize that they were not walking in the way of sacrifice, that they were not seeking ‘first’ the kingdom of God. They were ‘minding earthly things,’ and to such an extent that what they ate had become as a god, demanding all their attention. They were giving too much thought to their material needs, so much that the ‘first’ things of life had just about been crowded out entirely. They had forgotten that their citizenship was supposed to be ‘in heaven,’ and that their main objective in life was to set their affections on things above.

In the case of those whom Paul thus describes, we may assume that they were failing to ‘seek first the kingdom of God.’ They had become believers in name only. They may still have enjoyed the truth to some extent. If there was any time left after they had made adequate provision for their earthly needs, they would probably go occasionally to the meetings. They had not denied the Lord, although their course in life was in opposition to the principle of sacrifice represented in the “cross of Christ.”—Gal. 6:12

The danger to us is not so much that of going to this full extreme of giving anxious thought to the material needs of life, but of compromising between this extreme course of unfaithfulness and making our spiritual interests absolutely ‘first.’ Not to compromise is a costly procedure. That is why Jesus asked the disciples, “Are ye able?” Only by Divine grace and strength are any of us able to walk in such a ‘narrow way.’


Paul said that we should ‘do’ what he had done— to follow his example. Let us notice what he actually did. When first he realized that Jesus was the Christ of promise, he inquired, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6) Here is the true spirit of consecration. Obedience to this spirit led Paul to devote his entire life to the great mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ and serving the brethren of Christ, not merely under pleasant circumstances, nor when no inconvenience to the flesh was involved.

Paul’s seeking ‘first’ the kingdom of God took him among enemies in Jerusalem, where he was mobbed and almost killed. It took him on weary journeys by land and by sea. It led to bitter persecution, imprisonment, stripes, hunger, and other hardships. It finally resulted in his death in a Roman prison, just as Jesus’ faithfulness led to his death on the cross. Now we can understand what Paul meant when he wrote that we are to ‘do’ what we ‘see’ in him. It was surely true of Paul that he took no ‘thought’ for his life. As Peter admonishes, Paul cast all his care upon the Lord. For this reason he was ‘not anxious about anything’ but always thankful for whatever material things the Lord provided for him.

He did not, of course, expect that his food and clothing would drop down to him from the sky. On occasions he worked at his trade of tentmaking in order to secure his material needs. But ever and always he was seeking ‘first’ those things which pertained to his spiritual life, and to the righteousness of the kingdom of God.

When Paul admonished, ‘Be not anxious about anything’ he did not imply that the Lord always makes abundant provision for our material needs, for later in the chapter he wrote concerning himself, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”—Phil. 4:12,13

How often, perhaps, we have read these words, and have gotten from them merely the thought of Paul’s own hardships, and his wonderful spirit of resignation to the Lord’s will. But they should mean more to us than this, for they are related to his admonition to ‘do’ what we ‘see’ in him.


Let us remember that Paul did not at times go hungry because he was a poor manager of his material affairs, or because there was a depression in the land and he was among the unemployed and had no unemployment insurance. Rather, it was because he had followed the leadings of the Lord in a course of sacrifice which relegated material needs into a position of such relative unimportance that at times he was temporarily without food.

Paul is not advocating the idea that in order to be a faithful Christian one must deliberately forsake all thought of providing the necessities of life with the certain knowledge that the result will be to suffer want and hunger. He said, “I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry.” (Phil. 4:12) According to the Greek text, a better translation would be, “I am initiated into what it means to be full and to be hungry.”

To Paul this was all in the Lord’s providence, and he valued the lessons he had learned. He had plied his trade of tentmaking when opportunity offered. But when the call came to make another pilgrim journey, he accepted it as from the Lord, and did not worry because he had no surplus funds laid aside for the proverbial ‘rainy day.’

It should be remembered, of course, that Paul, so far as we know, had no family obligations to consider. He needed only to think of himself so far as material needs were concerned. For this reason he was justified in giving even less consideration to food and raiment than those who have family responsibilities. It was pleasing to God for Paul to take a course which left him hungry on occasion, but none of us has the right to expect others to go hungry on account of our own lack of interest in material things. This would be sacrificing them, instead of ourselves.

Paul’s reference to those “whose god is their belly” (Phil. 3:19), and his own course of faithfulness, to the point where he did not always have ample food, highlight the two positions. Paul’s position was, in principle, the ideal one. Seeking the kingdom actually was the first consideration of his life. Not many, perhaps, have been in a position to abandon their interest in material things so completely as Paul, but his example is the ideal to keep in mind.

Jesus said that no man can serve both God and mammon. Those who consider what they eat and wear so important that they take first place in their lives are servants of mammon. This is their first consideration. Our first consideration should be to do the will of God. He knows that we need food and clothing and shelter, and will provide these without the necessity of our taking them to heart so seriously that we will neglect the main objective of our consecrated life.


Jesus’ instruction to his disciples not to take anxious thought concerning tomorrow’s needs is also recorded in Luke 12:22. His advice begins with the meaningful word, “Therefore.” This indicates that the preceding thoughts have a close bearing on what follows. Looking back, we find that Jesus had just related the parable of the man whose land yielded more bountifully than he had expected. His barns were filled. Thinking the matter over, he decided that he would tear down his barns and build larger ones. He concluded that in this way he could attain economic security and would not need to be at all concerned about his future needs. But then he died—“This night thy soul shall be required of thee.”—vs. 20

Then come the instructions, “Therefore, … Take no thought for your life.” (vs. 22) In other words, ‘Do not take the sort of thought this man did,’ which was an anxious, selfish thought. It never occurred to him that the Lord had blessed his land in order that he might have a surplus which he could use to benefit others. Instead, he used this abundance as if the Lord had provided it solely for his own personal security. This was wrong.


The problems of the Lord’s people today are not unlike they were at the beginning of the age. The vast majority of us are faced with the necessity of ‘making a living.’ Regardless of how we do this, proper attention must be given to it. If employed by another, whether an individual or a corporation, we should render faithful service. If we are conducting our own business, proper attention must be given to it in order that it might return to us that which we need.

Earning a living these days is not simple, no matter how it is done, and it would be very easy to give so much anxious thought to it that our main goal in life would be neglected. There is no set rule laid down in the Bible as to how much time or effort we should devote to material needs, and how much of our time and effort should be given directly to the Lord. This is a matter each consecrated follower of the Master must determine according to their circumstances.

Where our lesson does draw the line sharply is with respect to the manner in which we approach our necessary avocation and the need to keep it secondary—yes, even incidental—to seeking “first the kingdom of God.” (Matt. 6:33) Even our work in the office, the factory, the home, or in our own business, should be done as unto the Lord. It is the Lord’s will that we take care of our own, and we may properly consider whatever means of livelihood we have as being by his providence. The Lord has his own way of taking care of the sparrows; and so he also has of adding necessary material needs to those who ‘seek first the kingdom of God.’

The consecrated life is a serious one, yet joyful, for we are not alone.

An eye that never sleeps watches over us.

An arm that is strong and tireless bears us up and gives us strength to continue.

Let us, then, cast all our care upon him, and press on in the way of sacrifice until we hear his “Well done.”—Matt. 25:21

Dawn Bible Students Association
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