[Textual Tuesday: The contributors of Focus Magazine introduce a new effort: “Textual Tuesday.” Each Tuesday we will concisely examine a Biblical text in light of its literary context and genre. Our goal is to model good Bible study skills so we may accurately understand God’s word and passionately apply it in our lives.]
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
A fundamental law of physics states, “A flat surface acts as a magnet to collect clutter.” Clean your kitchen countertop and five minutes later it is covered with dishes, papers and an unspeakable goo. How does that happen?
Life is like that! We begin the year with a clean slate and dream of great things to come. Yet, in a flash our minds fill with anxieties, our schedules swell with activities, and our dream gets buried beneath the clutter.
The answer to this problem lies in the realignment of our ambition. Our passion for progress is God-given, but the quality of our life is determined by where we point that passion. Jesus drew our target with this command, “Seek first the kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33). The worthiest object for our ambition is God’s kingdom.
The “kingdom” is a central theme in the gospel of Matthew. The book begins with Jesus’ genealogy as “the son of David,” the king, and ends with Jesus possessing “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 1:1; 28:18)
In addition, Matthew 6:33 is at the center of the Sermon on the Mount which is described as “the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23), and the people who heard it were astonished because Jesus spoke with authority (Matt. 7:28-29).
The gospel of Matthew reveals Jesus is THE King, who alone has the right to rule our lives, direct our passions, and dictate our schedules.
But what does it mean to seek His kingdom? At this point we often give flight to our imaginations, reveal our prejudices and miss the power of the context. Jesus revealed what it means to seek His righteous rule, and His applications are more penetrating than ours!
For example, when Jesus rules our ambitions we will love people better. Jesus makes this point earlier in the sermon when he says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). When Jesus is Lord of our minds it will change how we treat others. We will…
- Control our anger (Matt. 5:21-26)
- Not consider people as mere sexual objects (Matt. 5:27-30)
- Value our marriage (Matt. 5:31-32)
- Tell the truth (Matt. 5:33-37)
- Not take personal vengeance (Matt. 5:38-42)
- Do good to our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48)
- Curb our criticism (Matt. 7:1-5)
- Treat others as we want to be treated (Matt. 7:12)
Furthermore, when Jesus rules our ambitions we will love God from the heart. Most people think of the “kingdom of God” as a set of external activities but seeking God’s kingdom is more than a public event. It is a private devotion.
- We give generously, not just when the plate is passed, but when no one else will ever know (Matt. 6:1-4).
- We pray, not just at prescribed times in public view, but in our private moments (Matt. 6:5-15).
- We fast just for the joy of growing closer to God without anyone knowing it (Matt. 6:16-18).
- We trust in God and not possessions for our future (Matt. 6:19-34).
Matthew 6:33 is a tool to help keep our life free from meaningless clutter. So, before you take on a new responsibility ask, “Does this reflect that Jesus is King of my life?” If it deepens your commitment to God and your love for people’s souls, it is a worthy goal. Do it with all your heart!
Here’s a bonus. When we invite the Lord to rule our ambitions, He promises to provide all we need so we can live anxiety free (Matt. 6:33-34). Doesn’t that sound good? Perhaps it’s time to clean your counter so you can focus on what really matters.
“Let all you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:14)
A Lesson from Structure. The Sermon on the Mount can be seen as an explanation of the two great commandments, “Love God with all, and your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). Jesus said, “the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” it seems also the gospel does as well. For as the Ten Commandments give substance to loving God (Ex. 20:1-7) and people (Ex. 20:8-17), so also does this gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 5:1-7:29). The following outline reveals a broad expansion of the two great commands in the Sermon.
The Blessedness of Kingdom Living (Matt. 5:1-16)
Love Neighbor (Matt. 5:17-48)
Love God (Matt. 6:1-34)
Love Neighbor (Matt. 7:1-12)
Choose the Path You’ll Follow (Matt. 7:13-27)
This simple outline reveals that “love is the fulfillment of the Law” (Rom. 13:10) and the result of kingdom living. Furthermore, since “love for God” is at the focal point of the sermon, we see that genuine love for God will result in true love for people (let all hateful fanatics take note).
A Lesson from A Word. We often forget that Matthew 6:33 begins with the word, “But.” Seeking God’s righteous rule is in contrast with ambitions of unbelievers (“Gentiles” Matt. 6:32).
This means that disciples of Jesus will have different lifestyles from most around them. This difference should be embraced as the “salt” and “light” the dying world needs (Matt. 5:13-16).
In addition, the “Gentiles” provide a powerful illustration of what seeking looks like. The amount of energy and ingenuity unbelievers use in the pursuit of money and fame is astounding! Just imagine if we sought after God’s rule in our hearts with the same level of passion.