“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.” Matthew 6:33a
Jesus has just counseled us to take into account God’s power, knowledge, and love for us to set us free from worry about the physical needs we have. Now he offers up a new pursuit in place of the old, with a promise attached: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
The kingdom of God can be understood broadly, but at a fundamental level it relates to his authority, his right to declare what is good and evil, what we should love and what we should hate, what we should do and what we should avoid. Seeking his kingdom has both a personal and a communal sense to it. An active seeking of it looks like diligently learning about who God is and what he has said, and watching that our lives are more and more in step with him.
His righteousness ties right in with this; if God were just raw authority, but we didn’t know his character, there would be great reason for fear and uncertainty. But all throughout the Bible and in the lives of people who follow God he has revealed himself to be full of goodness. His rules aren’t just rules for their own sake, they are put in place as protections and as provisions. Their purpose is his honor and our joy. This brings in the communal sense of seeking his kingdom and his righteousness: we want to see his goodness and precepts manifested in the lives of people around us, and on our campuses and in our communities, because they are right.
Jesus then concludes his remarks with a pithy saying: that today has enough troubles, leave tomorrow for tomorrow. This is a practical outworking of all that has gone before. Since we see God as big enough, smart enough, and loving enough to handle all that we really do need, we are freed from the tyranny of worrying about the future to focus in on and live in the day at hand. It needs to be said that this doesn’t mean we never make plans or wisely chart out larger tasks. The book of Proverbs, for example, is full of wise advice regarding these types of things. Someday you’ll need to retire: its wise to think about that now, and start putting away a little money. At the beginning of the semester you may receive an assignment for a large research paper: its wise to break it into smaller pieces and not cram it all into the last week. So Jesus isn’t denying the principle of planning, he’s simply trying to get us to a heart disposition of trust in God.
We can’t create this trust in our own hearts. There’s no way for us to just muster itor “try harder”. But we absolutely can pray for it, and really we must. Jesus is the only one who can change our hearts, and he longs to set you free. Sometimes in Christianity we can hear a lot about Jesus offering forgiveness of sin, and a promise of heaven, but just as much he wants us to thrive here and now. He wants us to experience how running after his goodness as the first priority in our lives, and seeking to obey his authority, produces a peace that surpasses all understanding.
While growth in experiencing this peace continues over the course of our whole lives, we can begin to experience it even now. Don’t hesitate, but spend time in prayer now asking God to bring you into a deeper trust of him, based on all he has shown himself to be. If you have not ever prayed a prayer of entrusting your life to God, accepting the forgiveness and newness of life he offers in Jesus and submitting yourself willingly to his control, let today be the day you do so!