The other day, while praying for a certain situation, Matthew 6:33 started running through my mind. I rarely read the King James Version of the Bible because I have difficulty understanding it even when I know what it says! However, this is the version that I remember first, probably because we used to sing it years ago. It is from what is called the Sermon on the Mount.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you.”
I’d like to unpack the various phrases in this verse to try to understand what it is really saying.
What is the kingdom of God? Here in the US, we really aren’t that familiar with the concept of a kingdom. We are very proud that we live in a democratic republic and don’t have to answer to any one man (or woman.) The closest we get to knowing about a monarchy is Great Britain. They have a monarchy, and have had for hundreds of years, but Britain is a constitutional monarchy because it has an elected Parliament. The king or queen’s powers are limited by the constitution and parliament. In a true monarchy … an absolute monarchy … the ruler has absolute authority and answers to no one. The land where the king has authority … his domain … is called a kingdom. So, the Kingdom of God is where the King (God) has all authority… and where He is obeyed.
What is righteousness? This is defined as the “state of moral perfection;” “the quality of being morally upright, without guilt or sin;” “Applied to persons, it denotes one who is holy in heart, and observant of the divine commands in practice; as a righteous man. Applied to things, it denotes consonant (harmony, agreement) to the divine will or to justice; as a righteous act.” (Reference: KJV Dictionary, freedictionary.com, and Christianity.about.com.) Using these definitions, no one is righteous. Even “good people” are maybe better than someone else, but not “morally perfect” … without any sin. The only way we can be righteous is because Jesus, the Righteous One, will gift His righteousness to us, if we ask.
But… all these things. But what? And what things? To find out what this refers to, we have to look at the context (surrounding verses). Matthew 6:25-34 (NLT) reads as follows:
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
So don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear? These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
God isn’t unaware of our needs … Father God already knows all of them … and promises to give us everything we need … if we FIRST seek His Kingdom and His Righteousness.
So, how does that work … how do we seek those things. It’s not like looking for your shoes or socks … or keys. And it’s not a one-time thing either. You’ve “prayed the prayer” and you’re all set… or so some have thought.
If we go back to the definition of kingdom, we can begin to get some understanding.
A kingdom is where the will of the king is done…
where the king’s has all authority …
where the king has the final say on everything.
How many decisions do we make in a single day? Probably thousands. We choose what to wear… what to eat … how to spend our time … how to spend our money … what to think politically or socially … how to talk to family, friends, co-workers … how to treat the clerk at the store … our kids … our neighbors… what we want … what we don’t want… You get the idea.
Do we ask the King … who happens to love us beyond measure … what He wants in these everyday choices? Or do we not even think to ask … or care to ask … unless we’re in trouble?
This is NOT all about God wanting a power trip … wanting to keep us “under His thumb.” He loves us, more than we can even imagine. He wants only the BEST for us, and He knows that, left to our own devices, we’ll always fall short… for ourselves and those around us.
This is the difference between accepting Jesus as our Savior (salvation, forgiveness of sins, fire insurance) … and our choosing Him as our Lord (boss / king.)
So, we have chosen to receive Jesus as our Savior, and find out that there is more. If His only purpose were getting us to heaven, He’d take us home as soon as we’re saved. But He wants to use us to touch this world and bring more of His children home.
When we choose to actually follow Jesus … to be His representatives here on planet earth … to be His hands and feet, we get off the throne of our lives and invite God to sit on our throne. We take off our crown, cast it at His feet, and worship Him. (See Rev. 4:10)
Now what? Is there a magical puff of smoke and all our problems disappear… all our bills are paid … our relationships fixed … our bad habits gone? Not exactly, but we have given God permission in our lives. Remember, He gave us a free will and He doesn’t take that back. He’s not going to swoop down and make us walk with Him … but He has given us Holy Spirit to work within us … to guide us … to encourage us … to comfort us … to teach us. One of the things He needs to teach us is how to live in God’s kingdom. In heaven there is NO fear, NO unforgiveness, NO envy, NO selfishness, NO unbelief, etc. These things aren’t learned in an instant. As we walk through our days … following Jesus as our Good Shepherd, we learn that He can be trusted. We learn that He knows where we are going … when to change pastures … when to move … when to rest. We learn to recognize the Shepherd’s voice. He wants to talk with us!
So, all that being said, Father God WILL meet ALL our needs … but the how and where and when are His to determine. We learn to rest in His arms.
Oh I wish I didn’t need one… but I definitely do! Too often I am just moving through my day without even stopping to talk to God about what is going on … how to pray … what He wants me to do in the situation (or not do). Big problems I remember to take to God (usually.) It’s the little, everyday, mundane issues that I encounter and too often think “I can handle that – no problem.” Just imagine what God could do in my life (and yours) if we would ALWAYS be listening to His gentle and loving voice. What problems would be avoided … or solved?
Now I’m not saying you need to drop to your knees before you decide to make dinner… or pray “Lord, should I wash the whites or the darks first? If either of these is a problem, of course ask God for direction. What I do believe is important is what we have determined in our hearts. To use a sailor’s analogy … is our course set for God? If it is, He definitely (and thankfully) guides us. I don’t know how many times I have made a seemingly small decision, only to find out sometime down the line that it was a good choice in the situation now, even though I had no idea at the time. Why? Because I’m so smart!?! No. I gave my life to the Lord … my heart is set on Him … and He guides me.
My favorite Psalm is 131… only 3 verses but 3 great verses!
My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed and quieted myself,
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord
both now and forevermore.
Lord, you are so much greater than I can ever understand. You are God and I am not, so I won’t fret and worry about things my little mind can’t figure out. But I can rest and be at peace because You know all things, and You hold all things, including me … and everyone and everything I care about, You care about, too.
So, I tell my mind and emotions to calm down, stop worrying, trust in God. Lord, I want to crawl up on Your lap … not looking for anything … but just to love You and let You love me. There I am safe and content … forever.
So, Grandma, your hope is in the Lord, both now and forevermore. AMEN!