Seek What First?

Some people believe if we “seek God’s kingdom and righteousness” then everything will work out well. After all, God works all things out for good, right? 

SeekYeFirstIn Matthew 6, Christ tells the crowd of people to not be anxious for food, drink and clothing, but rather “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Sounds pretty good. Actually it’s quite a profound statement. Most people didn’t know what Jesus was talking about.

People still wonder today.

Sounds like if we look heavenly (whatever that means) and be loving and good (like Jesus), then we’ll get basic essentials for living (food, drink and clothing) and other unnamed benefits as well. If we look around us, as I’m sure people in Christ’s time did, this statement is actually not believable. After all, we all know religious and good people who never got out of poverty and life struggles.

There’s got to be more to this.

Not for the Religious, but for Everyone Else
Jesus confounds the crowd further with his statement in Matthew 9“For I came not for the righteous, but sinners.” This is in the context of his calling out to Matthew, the tax collector, to “Follow me.” Matthew drops everything and follows Jesus and becomes one of his disciples. When the hypocritical Pharisees see and ask why Jesus associates with people like Matthew (tax collectors and sinners) – actually just ordinary citizens who did not practice the hyper-religious, prescriptive ceremonial laws prized by the Pharisees – Jesus answers them as follows:

“It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but those that are sick.” Then he says “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” – Matthew 9:12-13

Christ is actually quoting an Old Testament passage from Hosea 6:6For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings. This is consistent with other Old Testament passages that give us clear insight into what exactly God wants from His people:

  • I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you will know the Lord. – Hosea 2:20
  • I am the Lord your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. – Hosea 13:4
  • “With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings…? Will the Lord be pleased…?” He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:6-8

Not Merely Deeds, But Our Hearts
Jesus, as God, knows the needs of His human creation. He knows our selfish hearts. We put our physical basic needs, wants, desires and even aspirations before spiritual things. Our great concern in life is often not the kingdom of God, but seeking a happy life. Oswald Chambers names Jesus’ call to seek first the kingdom of God the “most revolutionary statement human ears every listened to.” He’s right. How very profound that Jesus wants us to get rightly related to God first, maintain that as the great care of life, and never put the concern of your care on the other things.

So how do we do this? Here are 4 key considerations for a life that seeks first the kingdom of God:

1. We don’t have to drop everything to follow Jesus – No we don’t. We merely need to put everything second to Him. All things become secondary. Our entire life focus shifts as we no longer pay lip-service to God as #1 – He really becomes #1 in all of our considerations. Don’t quit your day job. Give Him your day job. (see 5/3/14 post God, Career and Pivots)

2. We surrender in faithfulness to Him – Everyday. Actually do it in the morning. In a prayer conversation, take your concerns, your schedule, your meetings, your relationships, your family, your obstacles, your selfishness, your struggles, your worries, your dreams, your sins – take all of it and give it over to Him like a bundle of confessions and secret thoughts. He is strong and will carry the burden. Remind yourself throughout the day of your faithful white-flag surrender. (see 11/2/13 post Punting to Win)

3. We aren’t careless about earthly affairs – While all of life is secondary in our heart and devotion to God, we are not to be careless and irresponsible in what we eat, drink, wear and do. We have a job to do under new authority. Be responsible and productive, not burdened, worrisome or anxious. Again, consider the lilies of the field (see 2/28/14 post Worry Amidst the Lilies)

4. Our daily life reflects a relationship with God – We are tempered in manner and filled with God’s Spirit manifested in right actions and love, kindness, joy, peace, patience, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We don’t do acts of service (burnt offerings) because it makes us look or feel good, we do them as we are Spirit-led out of love, heart and humility. (see 4/25/14 post Faith vs Works and Personal Transformation)

And We’ll All Live Happily Ever After
Not necessarily in this life. Don’t be deceived. The Bible states: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love them, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28. Just because we now love and follow God does not equate to earthly prosperity and freedom from want and need. Rather, we are free to live in full peace regardless of our earthly circumstances. Do what we can but remember our #1. His good purpose reigns but it’s not always evident to us or anyone in this lifetime. Nevertheless we can rest in full peace in the love and spiritual largesse of our good Father.

Are you truly seeking first the kingdom of God? 
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we ear?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagan run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. – Matthew 6:31-34

Categories: Abundant Living, Devotion, Faith, Jesus, Old Testament, Suffering, Theology

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