But, how often do I consider what it means to seek first and what is the kingdom of God? So today, I want to look into God’s word and find answers to those questions. Let’s first, put the verse back into context. That is always the first place we should look. The fact that Matthew 6:33 is one of my favorite verses means that Matthew 6:25-34 is one of my favorite passages. Jesus words are so filled with love, love which can convict without condemnation, edify without hindering, and encourage a person to move forward instead of give up. The passage reads,
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
The passage from Jesus’ teaching suggests then that the stuff of daily life, such as what we will eat and wear are not the kingdom of God. That seeking those things worrying or focusing our energy on them and going after them, means we are not seeking His kingdom. Therefore, we can conclude that the kingdom of God is not about the natural life, the worries of day-to-day earthly life, it is something more. Let’s find out.
Looking at the verse, Jesus associated the kingdom of God with His righteousness. We are to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We do not seek first the kingdom of God and then His righteousness, they go hand in hand. There are several things that are connected to Righteousness in the Bible. The first passage God brought to mind is Psalm 85:8-13
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
9 Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him
and make his footsteps a way.
In these verses, we see Righteousness is a path to follow, it brings God’s peace and is associated with God’s steadfast love which gives us faithfulness. We are also reminded in these verses that righteousness, like provision, love, faithfulness, and peace are gifts from God which each grow the other. Crops grow from the ground making us more aware of God’s love and increase our faithfulness, which increases our desire to be righteous like our Lord and since we are living in obedience we have peace. Peace is reconciliation with God, salvation which in turn brings the Righteousness of Christ and allows us to exercise the faith God gave us to believe and confess that Jesus is Lord and has risen from the dead. Is your mind spinning, I could keep going with the relationships between these traits, but I will stop and let God elucidate. God put it much better than I can. Isaiah 32:9-20
Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice;
you complacent daughters, give ear to my speech.
10 In little more than a year
you will shudder, you complacent women;
for the grape harvest fails,
the fruit harvest will not come.
11 Tremble, you women who are at ease,
shudder, you complacent ones;
strip, and make yourselves bare,
and tie sackcloth around your waist.
12 Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
for the fruitful vine,
13 for the soil of my people
growing up in thorns and briers,
yes, for all the joyous houses
in the exultant city.
14 For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
19 And it will hail when the forest falls down,
and the city will be utterly laid low.
20 Happy are you who sow beside all waters,
who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free.
The women in these verses were told to rise up and beat their breasts, to pray for the Spirit to be poured out on the people, not just sit back and wait in complacency. When He was poured out then the wilderness, the desert would become fruitful (abundant provision), justice would bring righteousness, peace, trust, and security. Justice or justification is about salvation as well. Romans 3:20-26 explains it.
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
So, the Kingdom of God is salvation and sanctification. That is receiving credit for Jesus’ righteousness and becoming Jesus’ righteousness. It is something we should pursue consistently. And it is much more than living the quiet life of the pew-sitter. Pursuit, seeking, and walking all depict ongoing action. Let’s look at seeking the kingdom of God more closely. Jesus spoke frequently about the kingdom of God or the kingdom of Heaven. His descriptions give us a clearer idea of what it means to seek first. After Jesus had explained the parables of the sower and the weeds, both about salvation, He moved on to parables about the kingdom of Heaven, meaning that the kingdom of God is more than salvation. Salvation is the first step toward sanctification (becoming more like Jesus). Matthew 13:44-52 includes four allegories to enlighten us about the Kingdom of God.
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
51 “Have you understood all these things?” They said to him, “Yes.” 52 And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Look at the desperation to have the treasure in the first two parables. The men in these stories sold everything else in their lives for the treasure and the great pearl. And clearly giving up everything else in their lives didn’t matter because the worth of the treasure they sought was so much more than all they had. Though they gave up everything, they lost nothing; when they gained the treasure, they had everything they needed or wanted.
The next parable reminds us, that the kingdom of Heaven includes true and actual change. If righteousness cannot be seen in our lives, then we are likely not in the kingdom of God. It also reminds us that this is not an exclusive club. It is for all peoples, Jewish, gentile, man, woman, rich or poor. The fish were of every kind, not most kinds, not many kinds, but every kind.
The last parable in this group also suggests a change. The Master of the House, God who is Father, Son, and Spirit, brings out in us what is new and old. He uses who He created us to be, our unique person and His character to make us someone new. He doesn’t forget the Old Covenant, He builds on top of it.
Notice again, not once is the treasure, pearl, the fish, or the old and new earned, but given, found, and brought out. It is a gift given by God and sought for by us. There is more to teach about the Kingdom of God and I will continue this discussion tomorrow. For now, we will close with this thought. Where is your heart? Do you long for the kingdom of God? Do you desperately search for it and are you willing to give up everything in order to attain it? Does Psalm 42:1-2 describe your yen for God?
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
Cherished, I pray it does. Because in Matthew 7:7-8 Jesus said,
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.