“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33)
SEEK. In Greek, the word “seek” is in present imperative, which means that it is a command to continually seek. We do not just seek once or twice and then it’s done. We must seek continually at every moment of our lives.
Seek First God’s Reign
Seek FIRST. The word “first” here refers not to temporality, but to priority – not first in time, but first as prime. So “seek first” simply means “seek as of first importance.”
This is not meant to be the priority only of the clergy or of “full-time” workers – and it is, alas, often not (I know from my own personal life and experience – but the priority of every laity and “secular” worker too. In my family, seek first . . . ; in my ministry, seek first . . . ; in my business, seek first . . . ; in my politics, seek first . . . ; in my office, seek first . . . ;
Seek first God’s REIGN. “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” Jesus commands his followers to continually seek as of first importance the reign and the rule of God in every area and domain of their existence. Living under the lordship and kingship of God must be the cardinal and continual, intentional and eternal, pursuit of the Christian.
The Vertical Dimension
Seek first God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS. “Seek first . . . and his righteousness.” To seek the righteousness of God in our lives has two dimensions. The ‘first’ is the vertical or the evangelistic dimension. We are not meant to seek our own righteousness, for, on our own, we have none of our own. But we are to seek the righteousness that God gifts us – the righteousness that is God’s own righteousness. And that is what is ours when we put our trust in Christ and exchange the filthiness of our sin with the righteousness of our Savior. We continually seek and trust only this righteousness, God’s righteousness.
We also urge upon others to experience this righteousness of God by putting their personal trust in Jesus – the one who gives us his righteousness in exchange for our dishonesty and deception, disobedience and depravity. “My sin was great, your love was greater.”
The Social Dimension
The second dimension of seeking first God’s righteousness has to do with the social or the ethical dimension of our lives. Our concern is not just about becoming righteous before God in the private, personal, and spiritual realm of our lives, also, with God’s help and enabling, about living out and working out a righteousness that is rooted in God’s righteous concern for the whole domain of human existence. Seeking the righteousness of God will thus include the way we behave, relate, engage in the personal, professional, public, tribal, national, international, and environmental spheres of our existence.
Faith and Deed
Faith precedes work, but work proceeds out of faith; faith in our hearts is revealed by work in our hands; belief in God is revealed by behaviour in the world.
“And all these things will be added to you,” Jesus says. Having our wants and our needs met is not to be our first ambition or priority. Our first priority is God’s kingdom and his righteousness – our wants and needs are the divinely-promised by-products and bonuses of getting out priorities right and having them rightly ordered.
All this, by the way, can – indeed must – be done without being “religious.”
Photo by Aramudi on Unsplash