Seek First the Kingdom

This week’s sermon focuses on an often-quoted verse: Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. What are these things? And what does it mean to seek first His kingdom?

To grasp the context, we look back on a few verses where we find Jesus telling His followers that they cannot serve both God and money.

Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and devouring insect destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasures in heaven … 
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  …
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve God and money.

Matthew 6:19-21, 24 NET

Bob: Hi kids, I’m Bob the Tomato! And welcome to… (Horn honks, before a pink Jeep drives by.) Uh, I’m Bob the Tomato! And welcome to… (Jeep drives by again.) Larry, what are you doing? Come over here!
Larry: (Off-screen) I’ll be right there! (Larry drives up to Bob in the Jeep he was driving in.)
Bob: Wow! What is this thing?
Larry: It’s my new Soo-Vee Action Jeep. I’ve wanted it just forever, and now it’s finally mine!
Bob: Wow! You must be pretty happy to get a cool toy like that.
Larry: Oh, yeah. Well, almost.
Bob: Almost?
Larry: Well, there’s just one more thing I need to be really happy about.
Bob: What’s that?
Larry: The camper.
Bob: The what?
Larry: The Soo-Vee Action Camper. You hook it up to the trailer hitch on my action Jeep, and I’ll be ready for a weekend of wilderness fun.
Bob: Oh, so once you get the camper, then you’ll be happy?
Larry: I don’t know. There’s also the dirt bike.
Bob: The dirt bike?
Larry: And the jet ski.
Bob: Uh…
Larry: And the action hang-glider.
Bob: Larry, how much stuff do you need to be happy?
Larry: I don’t know. How much stuff is there?1

This scene from Veggie Tales illustrates well the materialism of our society. When do we have enough stuff? We have added money, the pursuit of money to our worship of God; we need Jesus and our stuff!

He who dies with the most toys wins.

1980s bumper sticker proverb

In life, we buy and store stuff repeatedly; we even take pride in our stuff. The bumper sticker is sarcastic, of course, since our stuff is meaningless in eternity.

Jesus teaches us that God wants our full attention. When He says we can’t serve two masters, Jesus reiterates the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

By commanding a singular allegiance, God does not merely assert that he is superior to other gods. Nor in the plagues, does he merely demonstrate that he is stronger than other gods. He declares that they do not exist. They are nothing more than the vain imaginings of a darkened mind. The first word is more than a prohibition against worshipping lesser gods; it is an invitation into reality. … We are created for single-minded allegiance. We are designed for it.  

Jen Wilkin2

God is the King of His Kingdom –
There is room for only ONE on the throne!

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear.
Isn’t there more to life than food and more to the body than clothing? …
So then, don’t worry saying, ‘What will we eat?’
or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’
For the unconverted pursue these things,
and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness,
and all these things will be given to you as well. 

Matthew 6:31-33 NET

Jesus says “Therefore -” which tells us to look again at those previous verses. Since we can trust God completely, we do not have to worry about the basic needs of life. Pursuing the kingdom supersedes our worry. The greater fear of God Himself cancels all lesser fears.

 Command those who are rich in this world’s goods not to be haughty or to set their hope on riches, which are uncertain, but on God who richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment. Tell them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, to be generous givers, sharing with others. In this way they will save up a treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the future and so lay hold of what is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:17-19 NET

How do we pursue His kingdom and His righteousness? In advice to Timothy, Paul gives instructions on seeking God’s kingdom. We are by far the richest country in this world’s goods. Paul teaches us to not be arrogant or to put our hope in our finances. Instead we must put our hope in God. We hold our “stuff” loosely knowing that whatever we have is a gift from God. Paul goes on to teach these three ways for accumulating treasures in heaven:

  1. Do good, do good deeds
  2. Be generous in giving
  3. Share with others

To ‘seek first’ this kingdom is to desire as of first importance the spread of the reign of Jesus Christ. Such a desire will start with ourselves, until every single department of our life – home, marriage and family, personal morality, professional life, and business ethics, bank balance, tax returns, life-style, citizenship – is joyfully and freely submissive to Christ. 

John Stott3

When I read these I am reminded of Jesus teaching the disciples to love one another – not just as they love themselves – but as HE loved them! Sacrificially and generously! We are created in Christ Jesus to do good works that He ordained for us. We are to give generously; God loves cheerful givers. The author of Hebrews reiterates this teaching, “And do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” (Hebrews 13:16 NET)

If God is God, he is the source of all that satisfies. If he is the conceiver and the source of all that satisfies, he is ultimate satisfaction.
At the end of the day — at the end of the age — Jesus isn’t just going to say, “Why did you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I say?”
He’s also going to say, “Why’d you call me God and say I was your treasure and give me two percent of your attention?”

John Piper4

We pursue the Kingdom by walking with
and living like the King Himself!

You servants of God, your Master proclaim, 
and publish abroad his wonderful name; 
the name all-victorious of Jesus extol; 
his kingdom is glorious and rules over all. 

God rules in the height, almighty to save; 
though hid from our sight, his presence we have; 
the great congregation his triumph shall sing, 
ascribing salvation to Jesus our King. 

“Salvation to God, who sits on the throne!” 
let all cry aloud, and honor the Son; 
the praises of Jesus the angels proclaim, 
fall down on their faces and worship the Lamb. 

Then let us adore and give him his right: 
all glory and power, all wisdom and might, 
all honor and blessing with angels above 
and thanks never ceasing for infinite love. 

Charles Wesley, 1744

*This past Sunday, David, our administrative pastor, preached about seeking first God’s kingdom. You can find the sermon here.

** If you want to follow this series of notes on the king and HIs kingdom, here are the previous links:

1Introduction to Veggie Tales’ episode, Madame Blueberry (watch just 1:15 minutes)

2Wilkin, J. (2021). Ten Words to Live By: Delighting in and Doing What God Commands. Crossway, p.24, 26.

3Stott, J. (2020, May 24). True or Christian Ambition: God’s rule and righteousness. Langham Partnership USA. https://us.langham.org/bible_studies/24-may-2020/

4Piper, J. (n.d.). How Much of You Does God Get? (Two-Minute Clip on Christian Hedonism). Desiring God. Retrieved August 23, 2021, from https://www.desiringgod.org/how-much-of-you-does-god-get

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