[continuing in Matthew 6:33-34]
Now from our text we not only see a command to pursue but also a command to prioritize, namely seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
A Command to Prioritize
Notice the word first. The Greek word is protos, where we get words like prototype (first of its kind) and professional (first or expert in certain discipline or field). The Greek word means “the foremost or the most important.” Notice Jesus did not say the second or third, but first! What this means is, in all things God is to have the preeminence and priority in our life. Hence, the first thing first. You seek first his kingdom and his righteousness.
In this life we have many responsibilities and priorities. For instance, we have responsibilities and priorities to our family, to work, school, and even to church. However, the greatest priority and preeminence is God, his kingdom, and his righteousness. Now let me clarify something here. There is a tendency in American Christianity to quickly defend the importance of our family. Hence some would argue that this cannot be viewed as either or but both, meaning one should not have to choose family or God but both – i.e., family and God. Now please don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting that family is unimportant. However, I would like for you to understand that family is not God nor equal to God.
Do you know how many times I’ve heard people say, “We’re not going to be at church on Sunday because we’re going to Johnny’s game” or “We’re going to take a break from church for awhile so that we can focus on God our own as a family” and so on? Now please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that we can’t miss church due to personal or family vacations. All I am saying is that there is a tendency in American Christianity to use family as an excuse to justify missing many Sunday worships corporately. And in some families people use family unity as a reason to shy away from speaking the truth in love. On this regard just listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 10:
- NAU Matthew 10:37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.
That’s one of those hard to swallow and hard to believe truths that Jesus preached and taught. Nonetheless, it is one of several aspects of the gospel.
When Jesus commands his disciples to prioritize there is no God plus something. First means he takes the sole preeminence, and God does not share his preeminence with anyone, especially with his creations. Hence the meaning of preeminence and priority excludes expressions like “God and” or “God plus.”
Now how does seeking God first look like? What are some practical applications? As you know there are many applications. It is impossible to list myriads of applications due to time. For me, when I am awake in the morning I generally turn my thoughts to prayer immediately. Usually it’s not a long prayer when I’m in bed because I don’t want to fall asleep! It’s a simple prayer of recognition that this day belongs to God and I would have the privilege to experience his grace today. Sometimes I say to myself, “This is the day that the Lord has made, I shall rejoice and be glad in it!” The way we begin our day tells a lot about our priority. Also even in chaotic and hectic schedule of the day, say to yourself, “First thing first.” Recognize God and honor God in all you do. D.L. Moody said, “What and how man chooses when opportunities and alternatives are put before him often tells what kind of a man he is” (source unknown).
Now here in our text Jesus specifies what we are to seek first, namely his kingdom and his righteousness. I agree with D.A. Carson that this does not refer to imputed righteousness or justification like that of Pauline theology, but reference that is consistent to its context (as in 5:6, 10, 20; 6:1). It is righteous life, the kingdom life that is submissive to the kingship of God as Jesus has been teaching thus far in his sermon. Hence we are commanded to pursue and prioritize our God, who has the kingship and lordship over our lives. We put him, his kingdom business, and his righteousness first.
So far all the things I’ve said is jam packed into two aspects of command that Jesus is giving. Now I would like for us to move from command to consequences, namely what happens when we obey his command?
I want to point out two aspects of its consequences, namely God’s provision and God’s protection. One consequence for keeping Christ’s command is that God will provide all our needs. And this is similar to what Jesus already said back in verse 8. Notice Jesus doesn’t say that God provides all our wants but needs. I believe that’s our constant challenge, that is, courage to deny the self-centered desire for wants when all the needs are met. According to John Piper:
‘All these things’ does not mean everything we think we need, but everything we really need. And real needs are determined by what God calls us to do, not what we feel like doing. God gives us ‘all these things’ that we need to fulfill his calling in our lives (italicized his).
When we keep Christ’s command in pursuing God and prioritizing his kingdom business God will provide all our needs. It is God’s job to provide and our job to trust. I have learned over the years (and I am still learning) that God is the provider for me and my family. I can truly echo what Paul said in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Again, God’s job is to provide and our job is to trust!
Another aspect of this wonderful consequence is God’s protection. When we pursue God and prioritize his kingdom business he protects us from physical starvation (provision of food) and weather elements (provision of clothes and a place called home). Furthermore, being consistent with the context when we pursue and prioritize God, he ultimately protects us from our worries. God delivers us from us. Thus let God worry for our life. Let God worry for our temporal needs in this life. We give our worries to him in exchange of our trust in him.
People, first thing first. Seek God, his kingdom, and his righteousness. Prize God first. Treasure God first. Enjoy God first. Know God first. Worship God first. Serve God first. Glorify God first. Make him first in all that you do in your life. Amen.
 D.A. Carson, “Matthew” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 volumes, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984), 182.