What Does It Mean to “Seek first the Kingdom of God?"
Matthew 6:33 (ESV): But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
What did Jesus mean when He said this? How do you actually “seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness” so that all those great things Jesus said right before this line will be added to you? It is an often misunderstood verse, confused with actions and success versus being blessed. You may think to yourself, “Well, I’m having great success, so this MUST be God’s will and Him blessing me...”
That is not always the answer.
If you win money gambling at a casino where others lost their life savings from the same bet you made, is that God blessing you and punishing the others? If you bet on a race horse and win thousands but the man next to you just lost his home, is that God blessing you and punishing him? What if you were the head of a New Age religious site or group and garnered millions of followers and tons of ad revenue by preaching an alternative form of Christianity that goes against the Word of God? Is that God blessing you for blaspheming His name and good Word?
There is a factor of free will involved in all things, and God is sovereign over all through His permissible will to allow events to happen. Many bad people have been rich and successful in life, and success does not always mean you are doing the correct thing in the eyes of the Lord. I will examine that and more today, and what it means to truly “seek first the Kingdom of God….”
Just Follow Jesus
In Matthew 6:33, we read about Jesus giving a Sermon on the Mount. It is widely believed by scholars and researchers that this was on the Mount of Beatitudes, a hill in Northern Israel. This is where He said to ‘seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things will be added unto you’, speaking in reference to some blessings and good fortune He had just spoke about in the Sermon.
Quite simply, the verse’s meaning is as direct as it sounds. We should seek the things of God as a priority over the things of the world.
But what does this mean?
This means we are to diligently try to live our lives according to the ways of Jesus in the Bible, for there is greater value in this than all the world’s riches. Does this mean that we should neglect the reasonable and daily duties that help sustain our life? Of course not - Jesus didn’t tell us not to live, or not “drink wine and be merry”, or to be solemn and boring all day, every day, or not to work, or not to have fellowship.
But, as a Christian, there should be a difference in attitude towards certain things in our daily life. If we are taking care of God’s business as a priority - which includes seeking His salvation, living in obedience to Him, and sharing the Word with others - then He will take care of our business as He promised. We need to truly put in the effort daily. Now, remember that Jesus said do not be so holy that you are useless to others, but we must put forth the effort include some “God time” in our daily life.
James 1:26 (ESV): "If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless."
So, how do we know if we are truly seeking God’s kingdom first? Here are some questions we can ask ourselves:
1-“What do I primarily spend my energy doing?”
2-“Do I participate in activities in service to God?”
Philippians 4:19 teaches us that God will provide our every need, but His idea of what we need is often different from ours, and His timing rarely meets our expectations. We have a natural tendency to “want it now”. For example, we may see our need as wealth or advancement in a job, but perhaps God knows that what truly we need is to experience poverty, loss and/or solitude, to sharpen our gratitude and perception. As crazy as it sounds, that is exactly the path many take, and it is necessary.
Remember the stories of Job and Elijah? God loved them both, but allowed Satan to absolutely wreck Job (albeit, under His careful watch), and He let that Jezebel break the will of Elijah, His own Prophet! (see Job 1-2 & 1 Kings 18-19). In both cases, God followed these trials with a complete restoration.
Some may view these as “negative” aspects of the kingdom. In fact, it is quite the opposite, and it runs counter to a heresy which is gaining ground around the world - the so-called "Prosperity Gospel.”
A growing number of false teachers are gathering millions of followers under the general message that “God wants you to be rich!” As great as it sounds, and yes God does want success for you, that philosophy is not the counsel of the Bible - and it is certainly not the counsel for seeking the Kingdom of God that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 6:33. It is not a formula for merely gaining wealth - it is a description of how God works.
Another issue with the Prosperity Gospel is that the teachers of such often want you to believe that if you are struggling, you are doing something wrong or bad, and that God has nothing to do with it unless you are being blessed with riches. Again, this goes against just about every story in the Bible. From reading and studying the Word, it would appear that almost all blessings and "big turnarounds" started off with a bad situation or struggle with a good lesson learned tied into it all.
Jesus taught that our focus should be away from this world, which includes it’s status and it’s false allurements - and instead our focus should be placed upon the things of God’s kingdom. One of my personal ways is writing articles like this one here, which automatically puts me in Bible study every time I write on a new topic, my website, and going to my church every Sunday and serving in ministry for our Live Stream Team. Perhaps take a look at your own life and ponder the things you want from God, then ask yourself, what am I doing for God?