But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)
A “Christian” young man once lamented the exhortation to holy living by exclaiming, “Do you expect me to become a monk!” Sadly, that is not an uncommon sentiment. Such a sentiment coming from an unbeliever is understandable, but too many Christians these days harbor the same sentiments. The call to holiness is prevalent throughout Scripture, yet many Christians try to hide behind “grace” claiming that we are no longer under the Law. Somehow the world has taught Christians that living a life dedicated, in all things, to the service of Christ denies them of the benefits that only the world can give. But is that true?
Our verse above is taken from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). In this portion of the sermon, Jesus begins by calling attention to worldly “treasures”: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal” (Matthew 6:19). Here Jesus points out an undeniable fact that everyone understands: “things” do not last. There exists an unrelenting physical law which dictates that everything degenerates, wears out, or slows down. It is the inescapable Second Law of Thermodynamics.
My brother recently tempted me with the opportunity to purchase of a 1965 Ford Thunderbird – a beautiful automobile. For an antique of that type, the price was reasonable, and not outside my ability to purchase it. My brother mentioned that it had “some rust,” a couple of the electric widows were not operating properly, and the paint job was poorly done, but still, it was worth the money. As I battled the temptation, I considered the “little rust” that has the potential to spread like cancer. It would have to be cut out and replaced with “healthy” metal. Then it would need to be repainted. It needs some upholstery work. The windows need new motors. Many “minor” things are needed to make the car “right.” Then, after all that expense, I would end up with an old car that is still wearing out as parts for it become rarer. “Things” just do not last. Jesus says, “Don’t invest in things that will just wear out in the end.” Instead He says, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). What do you treasure?
Jesus goes on to talk about real needs: food, clothing, shelter (Matthew 6:25-30), and He emphasizes that “your heavenly Father” knows that you need all these things (v. 32). Just as the Father feeds the birds of the air and clothes the fields with flamboyant colors, He will provide for all your needs. After all, “Are ye not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:26). The birds of the air, and the lilies of the fields were not created in the image of God, but you were (Genesis 1:26). “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:31-32). The Greek word translated as “thought” is merimnaō and it means to be “anxious,” and it carries the idea of being overly concerned about these things which are under God’s divine control.
An old hymn that my mother used to sing to us comes to mind. The third verse of that hymn says:
All you may need He will provide, God will take care of you; Nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you.
God will take care of you. He has promised to provide for all your needs (not necessarily your desire for a 1965 T-Bird). With your needs met, what should be your priority? “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Top priority is the kingdom of God.
This is the first place this phrase appears in Scripture. If the search for the kingdom of God is to be foremost, we should have an idea of what that is. The next occurrence of this phrase takes place after Jesus has been accused by the Pharisees of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus asserts that He casts out demons by the “Spirit of God” testifying to the presence of the kingdom of God (Matthew 12:28). The “Spirit of God” indwells every believer (Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16) so that we should strive to “walk not after the flesh [i.e., the desires of this world], but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1, 4). “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:8). But Christians can suppress the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God) in their lives (1 Thessalonians 5:19). So, in seeking the kingdom of God, we need to continually turn over control to the Holy Spirit in our lives (Ephesians 5:18) so that through His power we can cast out the demons in our own lives.
The “kingdom of God” is synonymous with the “kingdom of heaven” and both terms seem to be used interchangeably in the New Testament. The kingdom of heaven seems more often to refer to the realm of the elect, i.e., the children of God (Luke 20:34-36, John 1:12), the saved (John 3:17), the church (Acts 2:47), etc. To that end our top priority is to expand the kingdom of God. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:13-15). As we draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit, we each in our own way and as the Spirit leads can share the good news of God’s love. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The message is simple:
- We are all sinners (Romans 3:10, 23)
- We are all condemned to “eternal” death (Romans 6:23)
- God offers eternal life which we cannot earn (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:8-9)
- God’s offer is in spite of our sinfulness (Romans 5:8)
- Our only requirement is to believe and accept (Romans 10:9-10; John 1:12)
The other priority we should seek, according to our verse, is “His righteousness.” Note that it’s His righteousness, not our own. Because of our sin nature, our righteousness could never measure up to God’s standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6). It is Jesus’ righteousness we seek, “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus” (Romans 3:25-26, emphasis mine). The Greek word translated “propitiation” is hilastērion, and it is “an expiatory (place or thing), that is, (concretely) an atoning victim.” In other words, Jesus, the sinless Son of God, offered Himself and His righteousness as the one and only atoning sacrifice worthy of acceptance by God and sufficient to cover (the meaning of “atone”) our sin and make us acceptable to Holy God. Notice that it comes by or “through faith in His blood.” When we receive Jesus as our Savior “through faith in His blood,” i.e. His sacrifice, we are “dressed in His righteousness.” The heavenly scene in Revelation says, “And white robes were given unto every one of them” (Revelation 6:11). Later the source of their whiteness is described: “And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14, emphasis mine). So, our entry into heaven is not gained through our own righteousness, but through His righteousness.
Our top priority then should be to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” then all “these things” will be added. In fact, when your first priority is right, the stuff the world offers will seem worthless. It will no longer have same appeal to you. Top priority: God’s Kingdom and His righteousness.
 “God Will Take Care of You” – Civilla D. Martin: http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/God_Will_Take_Care_of_You/
 Strong’s G2435