Matthew 6:33, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."

Jesus made this statement in a sermon (Matthew 5-7). To most Christians, it is a very familiar statement. It is so familiar that rarely does it provoke basic thought. We have heard discussed many times what the kingdom is and when it came. We frequently have heard discussed how a man or woman goes about the process of putting the kingdom first. Truthfully, most of us could lead a discussion on those matters.

Yet, rarely do we note what a strange statement this was. Certainly, Israel's religious leaders discussed for years what the kingdom was and when it would come. To declare that "kingdom understandings" were important to first century Israel is an under-statement. They, like us, had much to teach about the kingdom because their "kingdom understandings" were "excellent." Their understandings were deep and meaningful! They knew all about the kingdom!

Jesus made this strange statement to disciples as crowds listened. He said godliness was not about religious deeds that attracted attention or praise to self (Matthew 6:1-24). He said kingdom concerns were not centered in clothing, food, or the basic necessities for sustaining physical life (Matthew 6:25-31).

Dedication to God's kingdom was not contained in things godless people declared to be priorities (Matthew 6:32). Nor was it found in anxieties produced by life's troubles (Matthew 6:34).

We fail to realize how strange this statement was until we consider to whom it was given. Jesus declared this in a religious nation to people in its religious society. They were so religious that their "civil laws" were based on religious perspectives! They had priests who maintained the temple, elders who made religious decisions, scribes who preserved scripture, lawyers who were experts in scripture, and religious leaders who controlled society. Surely if anyone understood God's rule, they did! Yet, they did not.

How do we seek God's kingdom and righteousness above all things, as life's first priority? Through having right rules and regulations? Through having right forms and methods? Through worrying about things godless people worry about? Through making material needs our top priority in life? No. Then how do we do that?

Jesus said we allow God to rule our lives. We place God in control of who we are and what we do. We let God teach us what righteousness is. Then ... we allow God to provide us the strength to be a godly person who, in compassion, is fair to everyone.

Because we are Christians, who we are as persons is essential to life. That is more essential than what we eat, wear, or drink. Why? God rules us. We are His people. We exist to represent Him well. Who and what we are leads people to God, not way from Him.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 8 December 2002

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