Seeking the Kingdom First

What does it mean to seek first the kingdom? We have the instructions right in front of us.

People in a crowded train station in search of their destination.

Yeshua wanted to teach His disciples to rely on God’s provision rather than their own frantic efforts. He contrasted them against the idolatrous, non-Jewish world. The pagans prioritized mammon and expended all their energy fretting over the pursuit of materialism: “All these things the Gentiles eagerly seek” (Matthew 6:32).

Unlike the idolaters who consume their years seeking after material goods, the disciples of Yeshua should seek the kingdom of heaven. He told His disciples to “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness” (6:33). After all, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things … and all these things shall be added” to the one who seeks first the kingdom and God’s righteousness (6:32-33). Clement of Alexandria transmits a similar saying of the Master not known from Gospels: “Ask for the great things, and God will add unto you the little things.”

What does it mean to seek first the kingdom?

The “kingdom” is the kingdom of heaven, i.e., the Messianic Era. Recall that the Master introduced the Sermon on the Mount with an ominous warning, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). To seek the kingdom first means to prioritize attaining the reward of entering the kingdom—i.e., the resurrection of the dead and the Messianic Era.

What does it mean to seek “His righteousness”?

In Matthew 5:20, Yeshua contrasted the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees against the type of righteousness necessary for entrance into the kingdom. The rest of the sermon describes the righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees—the righteousness of God—an application of God’s Torah that internalizes His righteous standard. To seek God’s righteousness means to apply His Torah as Yeshua explained it in the Sermon on the Mount. That’s what the Sermon on the Mount is all about: the instructions for seeking first the kingdom.

If a disciple will set aside anxiety over materialism and instead apply his or her efforts toward entering the kingdom and practicing God’s righteousness, the person need not worry, the LORD will supply him his material needs.

  • Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)
  • Do not worry about tomorrow’s trouble, for you do not know what the day will bring. Tomorrow may come and a man will be no more so he has worried about a world which never belonged to him. (Talmud, b.Yevamot 63b)
  • It is sufficient for trouble to come at its time. (Talmud, b.Berachot 9b)
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