Jesus tells us disciples to prioritize the kingdom of God over our temporal needs. This isn’t natural for us because our needs are legitimate. It’s natural to be anxious about what we will eat, drink, and wear because those are vital to life. But Jesus goes so far as to say that the ‘Gentiles’ SEEK after these things, and calls us disciples to something else.
Prioritize Eternal Things
Jesus asks us to seek the kingdom of God, which is eternal, rather than things on this earth, which are temporal (see 2 Cor 4:18 as well as Matthew 6:19-20, 25-33).
The eternal things are what last after we die, so it makes sense that we should prioritize them. Jesus calls us to lay up treasure for ourselves in heaven rather than on earth (Matthew 6:20).
To make eternal things our priority is more challenging than you would think. In my experience, I can call something a priority but not make lasting changes. Like when I wanted to learn to play the guitar, but didn’t want to give up any of my other activities and hobbies. The instrument stays tucked in the corner of my room, still a mystery to me because I didn’t actually prioritize it.
For something to actually be my priority, something else has to be demoted. It requires relying on God because the other things, my temporal needs, don’t get my first attention any more.[Related Post: How a Clean Room and Quiet Time Get Shoved to the Bottom of the List]
Jesus encourages us, saying that “all these things”–our temporal needs– will be taken care of. God is trustworthy. Obviously people are worth more than birds or grass, and God feeds the birds and he clothes the grass with lilies (Matthew 6:25-33). We can trust God to take care of us and our temporal needs.
And once we can trust God with our temporal needs, we are free to pursue the kingdom of God. There will be time to make sure the temporal things are taken care of later.
I’m not saying we stop grocery shopping because we believe God is going to send us food every day. I’m saying the order is important. God knows which is your actual priority day to day, and he says it’s better to prioritize his kingdom.
How to Seek the Kingdom of God
Jesus says that to seek the kingdom of God, but at first glance it looks like he doesn’t tell us how. But if you go back and read the sermon on the mount leading up to this point in the sermon, you’ll see he actually does get very practical.
Seeking the kingdom of God involves doing things the way God intends them. So Jesus not only told us to participate in spiritual disciplines, he’s very particular about the motives and attitude we do them with. The spiritual disciplines Jesus calls us to in Matthew 5 and 6 are love, giving, praying, and fasting.
- Love (Matthew 5:43-48). Beyond loving our friends, Jesus calls us to genuine, selfless love for even our enemies. Our relationships matter (Matthew 5:21-42, 7:1-6, 7:12-14).
- Giving (Matthew 6:1-4). But not only generosity, secret generosity. Our generosity should flow out of our love for God and other people, and seeking obedience to God, not attention.
- Prayer (Matthew 6:5-15). Again, not for attention, but prayer for the sake of communicating with God.
- Fasting (Matthew 6:16-18). Yes, fasting. And yes, again, in secret.
These are how we lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven. These are how we seek God’s kingdom before the kingdom of man. And these are how we learn to give up our anxieties.
What about you? How have you seen God’s provision when you prioritized the kingdom of God? With which of the four disciplines do you think God wants to reorient your motives?
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