First Things First
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
Some well-meaning believers misunderstand Jesus’ message in the verse above. They think He’s telling us to focus exclusively on Him and not be concerned at all about anything else in our lives. While that interpretation is close to the truth, it’s a bit off the mark. Jesus is telling us to pursue Him primarily. We still have to eat, sleep, raise our kids, pay our mortgages, and keep our cars running, but these things will flow far more easily if we make our relationship with Christ our priority.
Many of us try to manage our lives as if we’re trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together. All the pieces are there, but we are bewildered about where they go. We make attempt after attempt to make things work, but no matter how hard we try, all the pieces just don’t fit together. We’re frustrated and exhausted!
In our exasperation, Jesus calls to us and says, “Hold on a minute I know you’re trying hard, but your way is not working. There’s a better way. Put me in the center of your life, and then you’ll see how the pieces fit together.”
We may think, “How can I add one more thing to my schedule? Seek Christ first? No way!” But if we take His advice, He promises to lead us, bless us, and give us more meaning than ever before. Will we take the risk?
God showed me that He could and would replace everything that was missing in my life, but that nothing could replace Him in my life.
Build today, then, strong and sure with a firm and ample base, and ascending and secure shall tomorrow find its place.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Matthew 6:33 is the continuation of the Sermon on the Mount of the things that Jesus is trying to teach us. In the previous verses He is talking about our struggles to manage life. As part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving us practical application to life as His followers. He is contrasting the thought of the day’s world view with having a view that is directed by our relationship with God. And that change of view is transformational.
In the first verses of Matthew 6 Jesus is telling us that while we should do good deeds our motive for doing so is not to bring attention to us. He says we don’t make a commotion to attract attention when we do something good as though it is the exception to the rule. Instead He says that as children of God we do good deeds because it is in our nature to do so. We are merely modeling our Heavenly Father who does good deeds. James says it this way, “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights in whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning.”
The second thing that Jesus teaches us is the importance of seeing prayer not as some elegant speech but as a conversation with our Father and friend. He teaches us to pray prayers that connect us with God and provide us our needs. He tells us the importance of forgiving others so that we might also be forgiven.
The third section of Matthew 6 addresses fasting as one of the disciplines of the Christian life. It is in essence denying the desires of our flesh and seeking the things of God. He follows us the subject of fasting with a lesson on what is really a treasure. He tells us to lay up treasures in heaven rather than on earth. So we have to consider what are these treasures that can be laid up in heaven? We can’t send our house or car or investments or money to heaven. Even if we have it buried with us it will stay here on earth. So we ought to give thought to what we can send before us to heaven as a treasure.
He tells us that we need the light of God, otherwise we grope in darkness trying to figure out which way to go and what to do. But if we walk in the light of God we won’t stumble over the stumbling blocks of this world.
He tells us that we must choose between serving Him or serving ourselves and the world. “The most unhappy place to be,” He says, “is trying to please two masters.” So then we cannot serve both God and things.
Now we come to the subject of seeking the kingdom of God first. We must notice the word “first” indicating a priority rather than a choice. It is not that God doesn’t wish us to enjoy the things of life. It is not that God isn’t aware that we need food, clothing, shelter or that we need jobs and that often life can be stressful with things beyond our control. Instead He is inviting us to make our relationship with Him our first move for if we are with Him and our lives are wrapped around Him, then we can trust Him to supply our need according to Philippians 4:19. God isn’t saying to us that we spend all our time praying or reading the Bible or going to church but that we put those things as a priority and in doing so, we trust God to take care of everything that touches our lives. When trouble comes we choose to bring it to God first for His advice and counsel. When life overwhelms us we can find peace in His presence. And when life feels like a jigsaw puzzle and we don’t know which piece to start with, if we pick up the piece that is our relationship with God, all the other pieces will fall into their proper place.
Maybe you’re confused, worried, stressed, or struggling with something today, seek God. Bring it to Him in prayer. Listen to His wisdom. Trust in His counsel. Then wait in patience and peace for there is no other who cares for you as He does.
Dr. John Thompson