Author: Ron Graham
Seek First the Kingdom
Jesus says not to worry about our lives and such things as food and clothing. Rather, seek first God’s kingdom and lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:24-34).
It's easy for someone to say, “Don't worry,” and “Get your priorities right”, and other such advice as people give out. However putting these things into practice is not so easy to do. If we were in complete control of our circumstances, perhaps we could arrange our lives in the ideal manner and have everything calm and orderly. The real world, however, isn't like that for most of us.
When Jesus gives such commands, he is also telling us to let God take control of our lives. That way, even though our lives may seem vulnerable, uncertain, and sometimes chaotic, we can live without great anxiety and make God’s kingdom and righteousness our priority. To do that, we need to look at life from an entirely different point of view —our Lord’s perspective and wisdom.
1 Don't Worry About Your Life
When Jesus says, "Do not worry about your life" (Matthew 6:25), he mentions two basic needs of daily life: food and clothing. He points out that God feeds the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the field. Since we are worth much more than birds or flowers, God will provide our needs if we put his kingdom and righteousness first each day (Matthew 6:26-34)
Working for a Living
Jesus says of the birds, "They do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns" (Matthew 6:26). He says of the grasses of the fields, "They toil not, neither do the spin" (Matthew 6:28). Jesus is not suggesting that we give up the work that produces our food and clothing. If he was against work, he would not have been a carpenter, and he would not have used sowers, reapers, gardeners, builders, fishermen, and merchants in his parables. Jesus is making the point that working for everyday needs should have a lower priority than living righteously and attending to the things of God’s kingdom.
The statement, "Do not worry about your life" (Matthew 6:25), or "Do not be anxious for tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34), isn't banning planning and being prepared, such as making sure, if you can, that there'll be money in the bank for next week’s shopping. Rather, Jesus is talking about worry and anxiety. If you don't know where your next meal is coming from, don't worry. Simply pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” and then do whatever you honestly can to get that meal —without neglecting the things of God. You won't starve. God is in control. Have faith.
2 Seek First God’s Kingdom
Jesus had the view that the more of this world’s goods you possess, the harder it is for you to be in the kingdom of God. He says, "You cannot serve God and riches" (Matthew 6:24). On another occasion Jesus said, "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:23).
Now Jesus didn't say it was absolutely impossible for a rich person to seek first God’s kingdom. He said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God" (Mark 10:27). I take this to mean that there are exceptions. Some people are dedicated to God and not to money, yet they are rich. Most people, however, are rich because they are dedicated to money and that's the problem.
It's All Free
Why be dedicated to money? One needs no money to seek first the kingdom of God. How many advertisements proclaim something for free! But the kingdom of God is free. No taxes are charged to be a citizen. No fees are payable for the blessings of the kingdom. Forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, answers to prayer, help from Christ our high priest, a mansion in heaven, everlasting life and joy —not so much as ten cents is needed to gain all these and more. Why would anyone not seek first the kingdom of God?
3 Lay Up Treasure in Heaven
There are riches and priceless treasures associated with the kingdom of God. These are heavenly treasures, not those of earth. Heavenly treasures are not only infinitely more valuable than any wealth on earth, but are eternal, to be enjoyed not for a few decades but forever and ever.
That's why Jesus says, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt and where thieves break in and steal. Rather, lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven..." (Matthew 6:19-21).
When we understand the rewards of seeking first the kingdom of God, we are very strongly motivated to do so. It might mean making some big changes in our lives, but we'd be foolish not to make them.
How does one enter the kingdom of God and become dedicated to it? Jesus himself lays down the steps. They are as follows...
Six Steps to Grace
The words of Paul in Romans (and his agreement with Jesus in the gospels) on what people should do to receive grace.
1. Hearing Christ’s word (Romans 10:8-17, Matthew 7:24).
2. Believing —having faith (Romans 1:16-17, John 3:16).
3. Repentance from sin (Romans 2:4-5, Romans 6:1-2, Luke 5:31-32).
4. Confessing Christ (Romans 10:8-10, Matthew 10:32).
5. Being baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6:3-4, Mark 16:15-16).
6. Ongoing commitment (Romans 12:1-2, Romans 12:11-12, Luke 9:62).