”But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
The verse above is a well-known statement from Jesus that is often quoted in churches and in Christian circles all over the world. However, do we know what it means?
The second thing that we are encouraged to seek; God’s righteousness, is normally preached in a way so that it gets the opposite meaning of what Jesus intended. To ”seek God’s righteousness” is normally portrayed as if we are not dedicated or holy enough, wherefore we must strive to perform better.
However, Jesus said, seek His (God’s) righteousness – not our own self-righteousness. Seeking God’s righteousness meant for the Jews that they were to stop relying on their obedience to the law as their source of righteousness, and instead believe in Jesus Christ. Likewise, for us who are believers today, it means to trust in Jesus’ own righteousness – as opposed to trusting in our own good works or performance.
”But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption”. (1 Cor. 1:30)
Jesus has been made righteousness for us. He is our righteousness!
In the New Covenant, righteousness is not about our own good works. It is about us having been made righteous before God – by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness is a gift from God to those who repent from dead works by stopping to trust in themselves and their own sufficiency, and instead only putting their hope in Jesus.
To seek God’s righteousness is not about trusting our own goodness or performance, but trusting only in Jesus and His finished work.
What does it mean to “seek God’s kingdom”? Is it about prioritizing church activities, attend prayer meetings, help the poor, or giving more money in the offering? Not necessarily. The Apostle Paul had the following to say regarding what characterizes God’s kingdom:
“for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”. (Rom. 14:17)
God’s kingdom is about righteousness – i.e. that we are rooted in that we are righteous in Christ by grace through faith in Jesus. (Note that this is emphazized twice in Jesus’ statement. To be grounded in Christ’s righteousness is part of “seeking God’s kingdom” – and in addition to this, to avoid any misunderstanding, Jesus adds that we should seek “His righteousness – i.e. God’s righteousness and not our own.)
God’s kingdom is also about peace – i.e. that we trust that our heavenly Father is good and takes care of us in our walk through life. When we do not experience peace in our soul, we seek God’s kingdom by putting our eyes upon Jesus so that our worries and emotions are brought under the obedience of Christ.
Joy in the Holy Spirit refers to us living in a love relationship with God in which we are grateful, glad and have a positive expectancy to experience His goodness. We cannot love God through our own will power. Love, joy and peace are fruits of the Spiritin our lives – not a result of our own performance.
”We love because He has first loved us”. (1 Jn. 4:19)
Seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness is not mainly about our actions, or us having to perform a bunch of good work, or live a life of ascetism. It is a heart matter. It is a lifestyle of being rooted and grounded in Jesus as our righteousness and walking in peace and joy before Him. When we do so we will receive everything else that we need in this life! It will also “automatically” make us do good works for God, but it is not really we who are working, but Christ who is living, working, and expressing Himself in and through us.