IKEA is famous for providing instructions without words. Follow the picture diagrams and that pile of wooden pieces and hardware will become a nightstand, a bed, a coffee table, or a chest of drawers. The instructions lay out an order of construction. There are perhaps several ways to successfully complete the build. Who says the frame needs to be built before the drawers? But IKEA, for reasons that are often not clear, chose to prioritize the order of the build in a certain way. Our next Jesus says command speaks to the order in which we build our lives.
Our key verse is Matthew 6:33 where Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB95) To get the full impact we must pull in the context.
The beginning of this section is found in the conclusion to the previous section of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus concludes, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24, NASB95) This is the underlying premise to what follows. No one can serve two masters whether that is God and money, self, family, or our worries.
Jesus then pulls in two needs that most of us would put very high on our list of priorities. The need for food and for clothing. “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25, NASB95) Jesus explores this further in the verses following with the examples of birds and wildflowers. The emphasis is on God’s provision and the avoidance of worry. “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” (Matthew 6:31–32, NASB95)
Now, I write this knowing full well that for some Lambchow readers meeting this needs is a daily concern. Neither Jesus or I are minimizing your need, only placing it within a grander context. Our worries can cause us to lose sight of so many things. Worry blinds us to God’s provision. Such provision may be our job or business, our personal labor of farming and gardening, it could be the grace of others whether a government program, an act of caring by an individual or a group. One form of provision is the stretching of food and items beyond their normal boundaries. Shoes that take longer to wear out, cars that continue to work even when they shouldn’t, accidents avoided that we don’t even know about. God provides for His children in many many ways.
It’s only after covering all that ground that Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33, NASB95) This doesn’t mean that should we sit back and wait but that we prioritize God in our lives. We thank God for the day when our eyes first greet the morning. We thank Him for the joys and challenges as they come our way. We seek after God in our day and listen for the nudge of the Holy Spirit. We still go to work, still take care of what we do have. We even plan for future needs, but in all of that our heart is turned towards God and not the worries and anxieties of the need.
I think that Jesus knew this was going to be hard for us. After saying to “seek first” Jesus gave us one other piece of wisdom. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34, NASB95) One day at a time. If that is too hard then one step at a time. And if that is too hard, one breath at a time. But whether our day is easy or troubled the command remains, continually seek first, before anything else, God’s kingdom and righteousness. That’s how a life is built that glorifies God even when there is only enough for one meal or we only have the clothes on our backs.
Jesus says keep seeking My kingdom and righteousness before everything else, even our greatest worry.