Change in the hymn, "Seek Ye First"


I noticed this change years ago and figured I’d ask about it.

The entire third verse was changed. Originally, it was “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst, and, whatsoever ye ask, I will do. Allelu-Alleluia.”

It was changed to “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Allelu-Alleluia.”

I have never been fond of this change. This new third verse just seems very clunky.

There isn’t even an updated copyright year printed under the hymn. It’s like they simply changed an entire verse and are expecting people to believe it’s always been this way.

Why was this done?


I always thought these were two different verses of a 4-verse hymn, that different hymnals just selected to “cut it short” with a different preference for which verse was cut.

I have seen that kind of thing in different (Protestant) hymnals over the years. In those cases, it’s just a publisher’s prerogative, and they either have the copyright holder’s permission or the hymn is in the public domain.


We sang this hymn last Sunday and we sang the third verse with the words of the older version; however, at my old parish we sang it with the newer lyrics. Not sure if it’s a regional thing or if it’s a preference of the choir director. This is a really good question and I’ve noticed other hymns with “updated” lyrics as well. I’ve also noticed not everywhere uses he updated lyrics either.


I am not familiar with the hymn, so I looked it up:

Seek Ye First
*]Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness;
And all these things shall be added unto you.
Hallelu, Hallelujah!

*]Ask, and it shall be given unto you;
Seek, and you shall find.
Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
Hallelu, Hallelujah!

*]Man shall not live by bread alone,
But by every word
That proceeds out from the mouth of God.
Hallelu, Hallelujah!

I don’t know for certain the answer to your question, but here is a possible clue: These verses speak of God in the third person. The verse you remember speaks in the first person (my name, there am I, I will do). Some Christians think it is improper to speak like that, in the place of God.

That is not my own opinion. I believe this sort of wording is acceptable because God’s word is being quoted. It should be understood that we could begin by saying “The Lord says…” or “Jesus said…”.


I have no opinion about the hymn per se, but as I understand it, lyrics that speak in the voice of God are no longer permitted.



Hi GEddie. Do you know if there is an official pronouncement about this? Thanks so much and may God bless you!


I searched but so far did not find anything official… but I did find this interesting commentary:
Songs With God in First Person (Q&A from ZENIT news agency)


We have an entirely different 3rd verse.

“Hear these words and act upon them,
Be likened to the wise man
Who built his house securely on the rock
Allelu, Alleluia”

Which to my ear sounds even clunker :rolleyes:


Here is a link to an interview (1990) with the composer of the hymn:

I think the interview will help the OP and others understand this hymn better.

The words that she wrote are the “Man does not live by bread alone” verse.

In a Scripture song, it’s understood that people can substitute other verses that fit. The verse that the OP quotes are perfectly OK, too.

I’ve been to plenty of Protestant camps and retreats where people sang all kinds of verses to this melody. It’s OK. It’s cool. No need to stress about it.

The main point is to “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.”


A few years ago, OCP changed that verse from “man does not live…” to “you do not live…” in their ever-raging quest for political correctness.


Thank you for the link. May God bless you.


This is indeed interesting. I saw this as noteworthy (since the hymn in question has been sung at communion time in the Masses I’ve attended):

It is also important to remember that even today these hymns are considered as substitutes for singing official texts such as the entrance and communion antiphons. The four-hymn model that is now typical at Mass in the ordinary form developed because vernacular musical versions of these official texts were almost nonexistent and the legitimate possibility of using existing Gregorian chants remained unused.


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