Something we’re told to seek first would seem to qualify as one of scripture’s most significant principles: “[S]eek first his kingdom and righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33, NIV) But what seems to be a fairly simple admonition produces lots of rabbit trails.
Instead of focusing on “seek first,” we often focus on the meaning of the kingdom. Is it the church? Is it here now? Is it heaven? Is it something to be established at Jesus’ second coming? Those who offer opinions flowing from these questions use various scripture for support. I’m not above picking and choosing scripture either, particularly if the scripture quotes Jesus. When the Pharisees asked Jesus about the kingdom, he said: “[T] kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20, ASV) or “is in your midst.” (NIV)
Like the Pharisees, we sometimes want a kingdom that’s visible, physically powerful. Jesus says in John 18:36: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest…But now my kingdom is from another place.” The kingdom is within us, placed there by God through his Son. It is a spiritual home encompassing all believers.
And his righteousness? It is found in the breadth of the Sermon on the Mount, which turns the Law followed by the Pharisees on its head. Jesus says in Matthew 5:20 that our righteousness must surpass that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law.
While parsing passages of scripture to define the kingdom is interesting, the thrust of Jesus’ message in Matthew 6:33 is seeking him first — his kingdom, righteousness, teachings — his everything. Seeking that first requires our everything. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened…and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7) What do we seek first?