Jesus exhorts his disciples
(and all believers) in Matthew 6:33 to “seek first the kingdom of God” and yet for many Christians, this is a mystery. What does it really mean to practically “seek first the Kingdom” on a daily basis in the context of real life?
What Does ‘Seek First the Kingdom of God’ Mean?
When Jesus instructs us to “seek first the Kingdom of God”, it’s in the context of Him teaching on worry, particularly about the practicalities of life including food, shelter, clothing, and the like. This is one of the most powerful parts of the Sermon on the Mount because Jesus is clearly showing the difference between living in the old covenant versus living in the new covenant; He’s bringing through His work on the cross.
Life before the redemption of Christ for most included striving, sweating, working and just trying to survive by their own ingenuity and drive. Sin had separated humanity from the abundant provision of God and cursed them with painful toil and working by the sweat of their brow. It also required them to live under the law of Moses, something no one was able to do perfectly. This was the reality people had to endure until Jesus came with a new reality, the Kingdom of God.
In this reality, Jesus reconciled humanity to the Father through His shed blood on the cross and restored us to the fullness of what it means to be sons and daughters of the King. A reality where, just like in the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father came running toward the son in love, restoring him to his place as a son and heir. Every need is met in abundance, every right and privilege restored, and the son has need of nothing! Wow, that’s good news!
In this section of Scripture, Jesus is trying to teach them how this new Kingdom works. He’s drawn a stark comparison between life in the Kingdom versus the life they are living now in Matthew 6:25-32 where He says:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”
“Seek ye first” is an invitation to a new reality, the reality of the Kingdom. It’s an exchange. Instead of living for and by what they can do themselves, Jesus invites them into a life of sonship where provision comes because of who they are, not because of what they do! Imagine hearing this for the first time! The God of the universe is offering to provide everything you need—not just spiritual, but your tangible, physical needs—if you’ll simply seek His Kingdom first. That is, provision flows out of His Kingdom because you are His child and He loves you, not because of how you perform, sweat, work or strive on your own.
So practically, what does it mean to “seek first the Kingdom”? It means that you look to God and His Kingdom first for everything you need, including your purpose in life, your daily provision, your creative inspiration, your business ideas, your family relationships, everything. As you keep God and your relationship with Him in the center of your life, “all these things will be added unto you.”
Even more specifically, to “seek first the Kingdom” means to understand and embrace your unique design in God’s Kingdom. The unique gifts and talents God has equipped you with are designed to both bring you life and also be used by God to release the transformative power of His Kingdom on earth. As you do that, God is faithful to release vision, provision, opportunity, and authority to walk in the assignment He has created for you. Walking in your assignment in God’s Kingdom assures His favor and provision for your life.
What Is the Context of Matthew 6:33 and ‘Seek First the Kingdom of God’?
To understand this passage of Scripture, it’s important to examine the larger context of where it lives in the book of Matthew. In fact, this verse finds itself in the middle of what’s commonly known as Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount,” found in the book of Matthew in chapters 5-7. In it, Jesus shares a variety of teachings on a myriad of subjects including divorce, prayer, revenge, swearing oaths, adultery, murder, giving to the needy, the Law, and more. It also includes one of the most famous portions of scripture, the Beatitudes found in Matthew 5:1-11.
In all of these varied subjects, he draws a distinction between life in the Kingdom of God versus the life lived in the Kingdom of this world. He’s showing the people that there’s a new reality available to them in the Kingdom of God. No longer are they on their own, trying to navigate life in their own strength but rather, they can enter into the Kingdom of God and have every need met without begging or striving. For people 2000 years ago and indeed, for us today, this is really good news!
The new life in the Kingdom has ramifications for every area of living including relationships, money, emotional health, spiritual growth, and more. Nowhere in Scripture are these truths clearer than in Matthew 5-7. It’s in this context that the Scripture “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” appears.
What Does it Mean to Seek God’s Righteousness?
Jesus also instructs us to seek “His righteousness” in this passage as well. The word righteous comes from the Greek word, dikaios which means, according to Thayer’s Greek Lexicon:
1) righteous, observing divine laws
1a) in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God
1a1) of those who seem to themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves to be righteous, who pride themselves in their virtues, whether real or imagined
1a2) innocent, faultless, guiltless
1a3) used of him whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God, and who therefore needs no rectification in the heart or life
1a3a) only Christ truly
1a4) approved of or acceptable of God
1b) in a narrower sense, rendering to each his due and that in a judicial sense, passing just judgment on others, whether expressed in words or shown by the manner of dealing with them
He’s commanding us to not only seek the inner reality of the Kingdom but also the practical outworking of the Kingdom in our daily life. In other words, seek to manifest the Kingdom in and through your daily life as you live life according to the way God would want you to live. It’s the practical outworking of what’s commonly known as The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10 where Jesus says, “your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” As we pursue the Kingdom of God and the way He does things, we are used by God to bring the reality of heaven to earth.
Is There a Danger of Being Too Heavenly-Minded?
Many often ask this question when it comes to seeking first the Kingdom of God as if doing so encourages people to take their minds off of things in the world and on to more spiritual things. However, nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, the question reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of how the Kingdom works.
The Kingdom of God which Jesus came to restore humanity to is a Kingdom that lives inside of every believer right now! Think of it! The reality of all God’s power, provision, authority, creativity, and nature living inside of every believer right now to empower us to live the abundant life Jesus promised in John 10:10. As we live that abundant life, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit, we become conduits of blessing, ambassadors of transformation in the earth. In everything we do and with everyone we meet, we bring the Kingdom. Every relationship, every business dealing, every piece of art a potential intersection point for the Holy Spirit to use us as instruments of His life and light.
The mystery of the Kingdom is that it is both coming and here now living, active inside us. As we see and agree with the purposes of God in our generation, we can walk as empowered sons and daughters, releasing the power of His Kingdom day by day, moment by moment. This is how the Kingdom works and, in that regard, there’s no danger of becoming “too heavenly minded.” Rather, we are the ones who Jesus has empowered to bring heaven to earth as empowered and led by the Holy Spirit.