Jesus crystalizes what He has been teaching His disciples when He tells them to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.” If they do this, He promises them that God will grant them all their needs.
The parallel account of this teaching is found in Luke 12:31.
Christ gives an overarching principle and clear directive for His disciples to follow. In the context and language of Jesus’s “kingdom platform” sermon, the Messiah’s kingdom directive is vibrant and infinitely applicable. It is almost as concise and complete a summary of Christian ethics as the two greatest commandments are. Jesus’s kingdom directive is this: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
This is a restatement of the central message presented in the Beatitudes, the middle of the chiasm, the D and D’ center of the sequence A, B, C, D, D’, C’, B’, A’ (see commentary on Matthew 5:3-10)
D. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
D’. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Mathew 6:33 is a restatement of this core kingdom platform principle, in this case applied to the proper heart attitude toward material possessions. In this case there is a key promise that all these things will be added if Jesus’ disciples focus on obeying Jesus’ core commands. Jesus does not say that all these things will be added in the time and manner we might prefer. But seeking His righteousness is part of what prepares us to enjoy all these things, because it frees us from having money as our master (Matthew 6:24)
His directive is two-fold: 1.) seek first His kingdom; 2.) and His righteousness. And the kingdom directive comes with a promise to all who follow it: and all these things will be added to you.
The first part of the kingdom directive is to exclusively and continually seek first your heavenly Father’s kingdom. Christ’s disciples are to zealously apply all of their efforts to find, enter, and participate in His kingdom as their first activity. It should be their primary focus in life. They are not to make a priority of establishing their own kingdoms within the context of this world. The kingdoms of this world are of no importance alongside the kingdom the Messiah is calling His disciples toward. The kingdoms of this world have nothing to offer in comparison to the reward the Father in Heaven will give to those who follow Him.
The second part of the kingdom directive is to seek first His righteousness. Righteousness means right alignment or harmony. His righteousness means harmony with His kingdom and His standards. Jesus’ disciples are to seek to be aligned and harmonized according to the rule of God’s kingdom and the commands of Jesus. They are not to seek to be harmonized with the demands of worldly kingdoms. Recall Jesus’s words a few verses earlier, “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). No one can reconcile two opposite harmonies. No one can attain His righteousness and reflect His kingdom while also trying to harmonize with the standards of the worldly kingdom.
The Messiah’s directive to seek His righteousness is similar to the Apostle John’s command to his followers, his “little children”: “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him” (1 John 1:15). John states the negative, telling us what not to seek and love: the world. Jesus shares the positive of this command, telling us what we ought to seek first, above all else: His kingdom and His righteousness.
Seeking His Kingdom and His righteousness are both within the three things we can control. All three involve who we trust; our perspective; and our actions. To seek God’s kingdom requires that we trust God, choose to live with His perspective (Matthew 5:3-12), and actively do the things He tells us to. We can choose many earthly perspectives, trust earthly dominions, and seek earthly goods, but they all ultimately disappoint (Ecclesiastes 2:17). When we seek earthly treasures there is no guarantee that we will find what we are looking for and even if we attain them, they will not last (Matthew 6:19). But paradoxically, if we live by faith and follow Christ and seek His kingdom and His righteousness we will find it (Jeremiah 29:13, Matthew 7:7-8).
If we follow this simple yet inexhaustible directive, Jesus promises that all these things will be added to us. What are all these things? In the immediate context, all these things includes our physical needs (our daily bread) and our spiritual needs (mercy and forgiveness). Jesus had already included in the Lord’s Prayer an acknowledgment of our spiritual and physical dependence (Matthew 6:11,13). In the full context of the Sermon on the Mount, all these things could also include the great lasting rewards of honor and position within His eternal kingdom (Matthew 5:12; 6:1-6, 16-18).
If we seek our own kingdom as the world would have us do, then we will miss His kingdom and His righteousness. We will miss harmony with the King. We will miss out on the everlasting reward that our Father in Heaven has for those who are faithful in following His commands. We will have exchanged God’s great reward for the contentious, worry-inducing wars over fading and worthless prizes. In other words, we miss the great benefits of His kingdom in the present time, and we risk one day losing other rewards or prizes God offers for pursuing His kingdom and His righteousness.
It is encouraging that Jesus’ commanded action for us is to seek first. Jesus understands our limitations. He understands our frailties. What He asks is that we invest our top effort to seek His kingdom and His righteousness. Effort and priority is what He rewards. This gives us hope that our loving Heavenly Father may reward us for clumsy, amateur efforts just as a loving parent rewards their child’s messy stick figure drawing by putting it on the refrigerator for all to see.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
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