Seek First the Kingdom – In Business

William Vogelzang is a member of the Bethany Christian Reformed Church in Holland, Michigan. He attended the Holland Christian Schools and Michigan State University. Mr. Vogelzang is a partner in a family wholesale and retail hardware business and director of sales. He has served as a trustee of Holland Christian schools for six years (president for two years), as a member of the board of Bethany Christian Home for eighteen years (president for two years), and as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals for the city of Holland for six years (chairman for two years). Presently he is serving on the Reformed Bible College board.

The phrase, “Seek ye first the kingdom,” is found in Matthew 6:33a. The chapter is part of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. preceding this verse and chapter and the chapter following, Christ is outlining by object lesson, by questions and answers, and by direct command how a Christian should seek the Kingdom, how he should live, how he should pray, and why.

Each person sometime in his life must face the question: “Shall I offer lip service to the Kingdom on one extreme and be a church member, just within the Kingdom?” or “Shall I live the whole committed life in earnestly seeking the Kingdom?” Every day we see people who seemingly have made no commitment, partial commitment or total commitment to seeking Christ’s Kingdom. We cannot judge others, but we do get impressions from the “fruits” in their behavior and goals. Each Christian, in whatever walk of life, profession, business, homemaker, student, or other endeavor, again faces a second decision: “How do I integrate this total commitment of seeking the Kingdom in my particular sphere of influence?”

The phrase “Seek ye” is a direct action; no nonsense, no uncertain directive. It does not say “Try to seek,” or “Seek if you can.” It means to me, “Seek ye—without recourse.” We are excused when we fail, but we are not excused when we do not try. I believe the command, “Seek ye first,” means above all putting the pursuit of God’s Kingdom at the head of one’s priority list .

Because I am in the business sphere, the reader will get a businessman’s interpretation. It is my impression that this goal and conviction is served in two ways, the direct and the indirect approach; and these approaches are in action simultaneously.

Indirect Kingdom Seeking – Let us look for a moment at the indirect method. The indirect approach is best illustrated by our personal lifestyle, and how we conduct our business—and there can be a difference.

In any sphere of a profit-making organization the whole thing boils down to the bottom line (net profit) on your balance sheet. To make this an attractive figure many things must be accomplished. First, a necessary service must be rendered or a needed product manufactured or merchandised. This can be found in many places, but a Kingdom-seeking Christian automatically avoids those activities that are not compatible with his search. This would include those businesses that negate his Sunday observance; those that have a deteriorating effect on others, such as liquor stores; or those that would lead others to sin, such as obscene book stores. There are many areas of enterprise into which a Christian cannot venture. No matter—the world of business is full of legitimate opportunities. Opportunities are like apples on a tree—ready for picking.

Moreover, the quality of merchandise and services has to be reasonably high and merchandised at its proper quality level. The ethical character of the entrepreneur in this area means first an honest evaluation before he buys, and an honest presentation when he sells. For the price of an extra dollar some businesses will oversell the quality or understate the limitations of a product. Seeking the Kingdom means honesty in this situation.

Advertising, an important ingredient to a successful business, should be on the same high plane of honesty as the selection and selling of merchandise. Extravagant or distorted or partially true claims in advertising will bring in customers but will erode customer confidence in the merchant as a merchant as well as impinge on the effective witness of the seller as well as do violence to his Christian commitment.

A Christian businessman’s word should bc his bond in guaranteeing his product. Suppose a customer returns an item that he claims is defective but it has obviously been misused. Give the customer the benefit of the doubt, give him a new item or refund at his option, even if he is taking advantage of you. The misguided customer knows what he is doing and he knows you know. This will improve your corporate image, and will impress on him the genuineness of your Christian intent.

Price yom merchandise properly to correspond to the dollar value of the item, to your astute purchases and your purchasing power even if it is higher or lower than your competitors. Give your customer the dollar value to which he is entitled and to which you are morally committed. The word gets around quickly that you are an honest businessman. Making proper money transactions are the obvious and any merchant would be unwise to consider any other course.

The Christian businessman seeks the Kingdom first in his conduct toward his employees, his suppliers, and toward all those around him or in contact with him. A Christian businessman is confident of his ethical position, yet willing to listen to constructive criticism. If he is taken to task, he must forget the man who has criticized him, and analyze what he has said. If the critic is right, the businessman will make an immediate directional change. Life is too short for selfpity. He must be willing to give credit to others who invent better methods or ideas.

A Christian businessman should not belittle or put down his associates. No one is working for him, all are working for a common goal. A “seeking” person should instinctively he recognized as such. Sharing the returns of his enterprises and blessings with his associates, church, school, government, and other men in like situation is also a Christian virtue. The same vigor, ingenuity, expertise, inventiveness, and resources that one has been entrusted with, shall be used to help others and Christian causes. The man who is a seeker of the Kingdom, if he is a leader in his field, will volunteer these same skills.

There are many other ingredients in a successful operation such as credit policies, interest charges, repair and service availability, and accurate and effective sales techniques. After making a “Seeking the Kingdom” first commitment, there is no excuse for deviation. Implement the decision by your actions.

To work without seeking God‘s guidance and blessing is unthinkable. No new venture will be attempted without prayer and intensive investigation. It is often said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” What the Christian means in reality is “The more diligent I am, the more the Lord blesses me.” Dont blame the Lord for rash and foolish moves if you have made them because you have not done a prayerfully prepared research study.

Direct Kingdom-Seeking – The direct way of seeking the Kingdom in business is of prime importance. It is fine to be recognized as a Christian businessman through your policies and integrity, but all important is the effective witness about Christ’s work in your heart and life. The word “Seek” means to me that I diligently search out opportunities for personal Christian witness.

Gentle and adroit leading of a conversation to spiritual matters soon gives opportunity to tell of our lost state and Christ‘s meritorious work. It is amazing how this approach will attract others of like mind who are timid, and will awaken intercst in those who do not know Him. Pray before meeting a new contact, for opportunity, and guidance in methods, in making a presentation of the Gospel. Learn the proper sequence and use it effectively to lead others to Christ.

I do not agree with some who would neglect their business to spend all their time blatantly shouting the good news. To be timid is to be defeated; to be blatant and burdensome is ineffective. Proper example and proper methods and example are the best methods of direct witness.

It is interesting to note the words following the command “Seek ye first.” They are, “and all these things shall be added unto you.” What are all these things? All the items that Christ has been talking about earlier in His discourse. Read Matthew 6. It is a great chapter!

These are my ideas of “Seeking first the Kingdom.” From experience they work.