How to Seek the Kingdom of God First (Matthew 6:33)

🌺  Written by Gina

Wondering how to seek the kingdom of God first, as Jesus talks about in Matthew 6:33, during the Sermon on the Mount? In today’s post, Gina M Poirier shares what this phrase means and how to apply it to your life.

Woman looking up with words How to Seek the Kingdom of God First

One of the most well-known teachings of Jesus is to seek the kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:33).

But what exactly does “seeking the kingdom of God” mean?

I’ve wrestled with the meaning of this somewhat cryptic phrase for a long time.

 

At one point in my life, I approached this as a command that I could meet with a checklist mentality.

To seek the kingdom of God first meant prioritizing things like:

  • Going to church meetings
  • Reading my Bible and praying every day
  • Tithing
  • Not being sexually immoral
  • Sharing the gospel with others
  • Volunteering to serve the poor

 

These are not bad things to aspire to do. But is that really what Jesus meant when he said to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness?”

After a while, simply checking the items off the list feels uninspiring, legalistic, and inauthentic.

Plus, it’s pretty weak theologically. Jesus was certainly not suggesting that to seek the kingdom of God meant following a checklist to get to heaven.

 

I’ve learned a lot by studying Jesus and some other great thinkers when it comes to truly understanding how to seek the kingdom of God first.

It is exciting and liberating when you look at this phrase the way Jesus intended it to be understood! In particular, The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard is the source of much of the teaching and inspiration I’ll share in this post.

 

*This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. This helps cover the many costs of running this site and allows me to help provide for my growing family. Thank you!

 

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  • How do I apply the Bible’s instructions to my life today?
  • Where is God calling me personally?
  • How can I make a difference right where I am?
  • How should I navigate relationships with those who think, act, or believe differently than I do?
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What Is the Kingdom of God/Heaven?

 

In order to understand what Jesus meant when he said to seek the kingdom of God first, it’s helpful to know what the kingdom of God actually is.

The book of Matthew, from which this passage is quoted, almost always refers to the “kingdom of heaven” instead of “kingdom of God” like the other Gospels do. Perhaps it’s for this reason that many people think that when he speaks of “the kingdom,” he’s just talking about heaven and/or the future in eternity.

It’s not that this understanding is completely wrong; it’s just incomplete.

I find Dallas Willard’s simple explanation quite helpful:

“God’s own ‘kingdom,’ or ‘rule,’ is the range of his effective will, where what he wants done is done.”

In other words, the kingdom is anywhere God exerts his authority as king — anywhere he chooses! 

 

God’s kingdom has always been there and always will be there; he has chosen to reveal it in various ways throughout the Scriptures and throughout history. Willard likens it to electricity. Through Christ, anyone can access the kingdom through faith, just like you might access electricity by connecting to the power grid.

The kingdom isn’t just a “ticket to heaven.” When you seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God, you live a life that is radically different than it would be otherwise, in the here and now. What’s more,  believers collectively put the kingdom on display, as illustrated by the city on a hill or light on its stand in Matthew 5:14–16.

 

What Seeking the Kingdom of God Looks Like

 

When Jesus says to seek the kingdom of God first in Matthew 6:33, it’s at the height of his Sermon on the Mount. So it’s important to think of it in the entire context of Matthew 5–7.

In fact, if you’re studying the meaning of seeking the kingdom first, I strongly encourage you to go read the whole sermon in one sitting.

One of Jesus’ main points (if not the point) is that those who are a part of God’s kingdom live with hearts that are transformed. The goal is not to follow a list of rules, but rather to know the King in a way that we will be changed from the inside out, and in turn change the world.

Willard sums it up in one of my favorite quotes:

“[Jesus] does not call us to do what he did, but to be as he was, permeated with love. Then the doing of what he did and said becomes the natural expression of who we are in him.”

 

Looking at the whole Sermon on the Mount, to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness means to:

  • Rejoice in hardships (Matthew 5:1-12): in the Beatitudes, he reveals how God chooses to be with “outsiders” and those in the most difficult circumstances.
  • Love others from the heart (Matthew 5:13–2:4): to truly live as God’s chosen people and to put the kingdom on display is to act in love and to put others’ needs above your own.
  • Cultivate a relationship with God (Matthew 6:5–24): only by knowing God intimately and authentically can you live a kingdom life.
  • Trust God in everything (Matthew 6:25–7:12): while it’s challenging to put aside your own comforts and concerns, if you do these things, God will take care of the rest.
  • Build wisely (Matthew 7:13–29): while the kingdom life is hard and few will choose to truly seek it, the fruit of your choices will be obvious.

This is not an exhaustive explanation, but it’s clear that to seek the kingdom of God is an incredible challenge (and that’s why we need his help!).

 

Related Reading: How to Know God’s Will for Your Life

 

Why Did Jesus Say to Seek First His Kingdom?

When Jesus says to “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness”, it’s at the height of the famous passage that implores his followers not to worry about material things in Matthew 6:25–34:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

 

He says this because when you’re truly seeking the kingdom of God, it can come at great personal expense.

You may be persecuted; you may lose everything you have. And this is why he assures us to hang in there. Trust him.

Even when the temptation is great to protect and take care of yourself (including your rights, your comforts, and your family), choose the kingdom way first. 

 

Related Reading: How Do I Hear God’s Voice Clearly?

 

How to Seek the Kingdom of God First, Practically

 

Hopefully it’s clear that there is no checklist of things you need to do in order to seek the kingdom of God first, and this mentality completely misses the point of what Jesus was trying to say.

Instead, to seek the kingdom of God means to seek the transformation of your heart and the way you live.

Your decisions moment to moment should shine the light of the kingdom on the world around you.

 

There is no one-size-fits-all blueprint for how to do this. But good places to start are to practice some basic spiritual disciplines like studying the Scriptures, communing with God in prayer, and participating in a community of believers who do likewise. Building from there, you can learn to “be as Jesus was” in the way you live your life by loving others and sharing the good news of this incredible kingdom you’re a part of. This all happens as you are transformed from the inside out, through Christ’s power.

 

Related Reading: What Are Spiritual Disciplines? Plus 10 Ideas to Get Started

 

Remember that when you live in this way it will be challenging, but it will be worth it. Seek the kingdom of God first, and his will for your life will become clearer. And everything you need will fall into place.

 

Ready to Take Your Next Step in Seeking His Will?

If so, I’d love for you to check out my brand new book, Follow God’s Will: Biblical Guidelines for Everyday Life along with the Follow God’s Will companion workbook.

Practical, encouraging, and full of biblical truth, Follow God’s Will is designed to help you answer questions including:

  • What does God want me to do?
  • How do I apply the Bible’s instructions to my life today?
  • Where is God calling me personally?
  • How can I make a difference right where I am?
  • How should I navigate relationships with those who think, act, or believe differently than I do?
  • And so many more!

Both books officially launch on October 4th, 2022, BUT you can start reading the first chapter today for free!

Simply enter your first name and email below, and I’ll send you an exclusive “first-peek” right away, right to your inbox!

 

 

Leave a comment: Do you seek the kingdom of God first? What does that mean for your life? How has your understanding of this passage changed over time?

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