Seek First His Kingdom and Righteousness
Jason Hsu—Baldwin Park, California, USA
first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be
added to you. (Mt 6:33)
One of man’s purposes in life is to seek after God. He has set the pre-appointed
times of all men and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they might seek
Yet, today, we see very few people seeking after God. This has to do with
our priorities. Jesus said no one can serve two masters, for He wanted us to
know that each of us must make a choice as to who or what will be our first
Our priorities are quite important because they determine the goal and
direction of our life. Where we end up, whether or not our life has a good
ending, depends a lot upon our having the right priorities.
Let us therefore study what it means to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.
A Matter of the
A concerned parent may strictly discipline a wayward child. However, strict
discipline sometimes fails, and the wayward child’s path is still not set aright. Although a son may outwardly obey his parent’s
wishes for a time, nothing has truly changed if there is no inward change of
Our heart directs our path and the direction we travel.
The things we seek—our priorities—are matters of the heart. Like almost all
matters of the heart, a willing heart must lie at its core to bring meaning.
Just as the foundation for a meaningful love or faith rests upon a willing
heart, seeking only becomes meaningful when it is founded upon a willingness to
seek. Therefore, the heart to seek is fundamental to our priorities.
There is a distinct difference between looking and seeking. Looking may
simply refer to an outward act. Seeking, however, runs deeper, for it derives
from an inward motive—from a heart to look. While looking may be forced upon a
person, seeking cannot be forced because it originates from within, where no
human hand can reach.
Therefore, unless a person first has a heart to seek, that person will never
When Jesus taught us “seek, and you will find,” He was teaching us that
“finding” is intimately connected with the heart to seek.3
A heart to seek stems from an inner desire to find. It’s that inner
desire—that heart—to seek that is precious in God’s sight. This is the heart
Having the heart to seek, therefore, is vital to receiving the fullness of
God’s blessings in our life.
We will not accidentally stumble upon God’s kingdom and righteousness in
our life; we must seek it.
Seek the Right
Things with the Right Focus
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for
they shall be filled. (Mt 5:6)
When a person is hungry, their focus is on food. When a person is thirsty,
their passion is for drink. There are so many hungry and thirsty people in the
world today, many of whom hunger and thirst for success. But Jesus said if we
hunger and thirst for righteousness, we are blessed.
Seeking can be viewed from two aspects: what we seek, and the way we seek. Successful
seeking reconciles seeking the right things with having the right focus.
Seeking the right things means seeking what is good and right in God’s
For example, a man who diligently seeks material security might have a good
focus and passion. His mind, his heart, his best are all focused on this goal:
to retire early and live out the rest of his life in comfort. But the focus of
his life may be entirely wrong. If he gained the whole world and lost his soul,
did he really seek the right things?
Having the right focus means having a strong inner desire for what we seek,
just like a hungry and thirsty person has for food and drink.
The story of Bartimaeus illustrates what it means
to seek with a strong inner desire.4
Bartimaeus was blind and probably often sat by the roadside begging. One day, Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was passing by. He grasped the
opportunity to cry out, “Jesus…have mercy on me!”
Others commanded him to be quiet, but Bartimaeus
only cried out all the more, “[Jesus]…have mercy on me!”
The Bible says Jesus heard his cry and stood still. He then called for him
and asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?” Bartimaeus said, “Rabboni, that I
may receive my sight.” That day, he received his sight.
Bartimaeus sought Jesus with the type of inner desire a truly hungry and thirsty
person would have for food and drink, so he successfully received what he
Luke 11:5-8 records the Lord’s parable about a persistent friend. In His
parable, a man went to his friend at midnight and asked for three loaves for
his guest. It was quite late, however, and his friend was already in his bed,
had already put his children to sleep, and had shut his door. So his friend replied,
“Do not trouble me; the door is now shut…I cannot rise and give to you.”
Faced with such a circumstance, most of us would retreat, if only out of
respect, but this friend would not leave. Instead, he remained persistent to
the point of being shameless. Although his friend would not rise out of friendship,
he would rise and give as much as his friend needed because of his persistence.
We also must be persistent in seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness.
Apostle Paul encouraged the Galatians not to lose heart in doing good, which
also serves to remind us not to lose heart as we do God’s work.5 So
if we are to be successful in pursuing God’s kingdom and righteousness, let us
persist in seeking it.
The essence of priorities is placing first things first. To put something
first means we place an importance on it.
the World vs. Priorities of the Kingdom
Jesus once said, “[M]any who are first will be last, and the last
first” (Mt 19:30). Many of the priorities of this world are not priorities in
God’s kingdom. Rather, the principles of this world are often at odds with the
principles of His kingdom.
In the Sermon on the Mount,6
Jesus gave many blessings, or beatitudes. We notice that He called the “poor,”
“mournful,” “meek,” “hungry,” and “persecuted” blessed.7If we were to judge such people by the standards of this
world, they would be called accursed. Yet Jesus calls such people “happy” or
This teaches us that the priorities of God’s
kingdom won’t always align with the logic of this world. Very often, we may
find that the principles of God’s kingdom do not make sense in the general
scheme of human understanding or justice.8
Therefore, living by the principles of God’s
kingdom will not always come naturally to us and will often require a
deliberate act on our part.
“If you love
those who love you, what reward have you?...[I]f you
greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even
[sinners] do the same?” (Mt 5:46, 47)
To live by the precepts of God’s kingdom, then,
often means we must actively seek to engage the principles of God’s kingdom in
our lives. They won’t always come naturally to us, so we must prioritize how we
In this world, if someone slaps us on the right
cheek, we naturally slap him back with equal or greater force. That’s fair. And
if somebody takes away our shirt, we would be a fool to give him our coat, too.
But the priorities of God’s kingdom may not be the priorities of the world.
Priorities can be viewed from two perspectives: (1) time and (2)
First in Time
First in time relates to order. We all know that, in nature, everything has
a natural order. The sun rises and sets. Both the earth and its seasons follow
a natural order. From creation, then, we know that God is orderly.9In fact, every divine institution—from marriage, to family,
to church—has an order.
So when Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,”
we could interpret this to mean we must put God’s kingdom in its natural order.
This is an important way we understand priorities—by what we order first in our
Many times we put our own things, not God’s things, first. Yet, in Acts
17:26, Paul said God determined man’s pre-appointed times and the boundaries of
his dwelling. In other words, even a man’s life is ordered by God. In some
important way, God has ordered man’s life to seek after Him.
Man, however, is not always aware of God’s pre-appointed times. Many times
we don’t even know where we will be next month, let alone where God set the
boundaries of our dwelling. Therefore, we should try only to step where God
would have us step and walk where God would have us walk.
For this very reason, we need to seek after God throughout our lives. But
how can we do this when we don’t even know where we will be or what we will be
doing a year from now?
Proverbs 20:24 says, “A man’s
steps are of the LORD; How then can a man understand his own way?” Even though we don’t always know where we are
going or the complete order of our lives, we know this: we walk by faith and
not by sight.
Our forefather Isaac also learned to order his life by faith. When Isaac first
dwelled in the land of the Philistines, he faced many challenges. Wherever he
pitched his tent or dug his well, the Philistines would force him to move.10
Then he came to Beersheba, and the Lord appeared to him. God told Isaac, “I
am the God of your father Abraham” (Gen 26:24), and He confirmed His covenant
with Isaac. After this pivotal moment, Isaac built an altar first, then pitched
his tent, and then dug his well.11 This was the order established by
faith, and it bore the fruit of peace among men and God’s complete blessing.12
Sometimes, God takes us along the path of our life and through many trials
to teach us this very thing: what is important and comes first. Because if we
fail to know this, we, too, will fail to find God’s complete blessing over our
Be the First to
When God’s kingdom and righteousness becomes first in our lives, we are
often called to be the first to act in accordance with God’s righteous principles.
Many times, we require others to act first. We live by the motto “I’ll
scratch your back if you scratch mine.”
But Jesus taught us differently. He said, you take the initiative and act
upon God’s righteousness.
Thus, Jesus taught that if, before you make your offering to God, you
remember your brother has something against you, first be reconciled with your
brother and then make your offering.13
Similarly, Jesus taught us to look to ourselves first before we condemn
another’s wrongdoing. Jesus said,
“[W]hy do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do
not consider the plank in your own eye?...Hypocrite!
First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to
remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Mt 7:3, 5)
Putting God’s kingdom and righteousness first in our lives often requires
us to take the initiative to act first.
“First” can also mean “first in importance.” This is related to our values.
For instance, a person seeking to enter university may place entrance into the
top universities as his first priority. This means, at this point in his life,
entering the top university is what is most valuable to him.
Where do we find value? Many people value wealth and material security, and
this is what often becomes the priority.
Jesus said that the Gentiles worry about what
they will eat, what they will drink, and what they will wear, but your heavenly
Father knows that you need all these things.14 So Jesus
told us not to be anxious over any of these things.
He said that God feeds the birds of the air, who do not know how to sow seed in
its season or reap a harvest. God clothes the flowers of the field, who do not
know how to make clothes; yet, are not the flowers of the field still
Jesus’ teachings are very simple yet easy to forget. That’s why we often
exchange the Lord’s promises for things of lesser value. Yet, Jesus said, “‘But
seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall
be added to you’” (Mt 6:33).
“All these things shall be added to you” means God will provide all our
needs if we would only learn to engage this truth: to seek first His kingdom
So what is important? What is valuable in our life?
Seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness is the most valuable pursuit we
could have in this life.
The Rule and
Character of God
Two important biblical images of God are King and Judge. God is our King
because He rules and orders our life as He pleases. God is our Judge because
His righteous judgments and precepts govern our lives.
Today, we should relate to God in both His capacity as King and as Judge.
To take priority in our life, God’s kingdom and righteousness must first
become relevant to it. God’s kingdom deals with God’s kingship. How is God’s
kingship expressed in our life? God’s righteousness deals with how God’s
character and actions govern our lives. God’s righteousness is most clearly
expressed through His law. To be relevant, then, we must come to terms with how
God’s law applies to our life.
In Christ, we are no longer under law but under grace. At the same time,
God’s grace should not be used as pretext to live a sinful life.15
Many people today remove the applicability of God’s ethical laws to their
life. Some even attack public displays of the Ten Commandments. However, the
outward display of the law is secondary to the more important display of God’s
law through our lives.
Because we live by God’s word, we are still under His rule and righteousness.
God Is King
We show God is first and King by living a righteous life. Jesus said: Seek
first God’s kingdom and His righteousness.
Jesus spoke not only of God’s rule but also of His rule in conjunction with His
righteousness. By living according to His principles—by living out a righteous
life—we show God is King through the witness of our lives.
Christians often speak negatively about the Pharisees, equating them to
“hypocrites.” Yet, the original goal of the Pharisees was actually quite noble;
they were the “separate ones.” Pharisees were the ones who separated out their
life to seek wholly after God’s law. They were the ones who determined they
would not be defiled by the popular pagan culture of that time.
In other words, they were those
who sought to live a holy life before God, and there is something very
important we can still learn from them.
Some say Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:20 is the theme of His Sermon on
the Mount. He said,
righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will
by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
What Jesus taught, then, was not
to forsake righteous living under God’s grace but that our righteousness must
even exceed that of the Pharisees. This goes to the very heart of the matter.
Living in God’s
Therefore, when we place priority on God’s kingdom and righteousness, we
will turn away from our former way of life apart from God. Because His
righteousness is our priority, our heart, our principles, and our values are
different. Because our priorities have changed, our world changes.
Formerly, we may have valued money most; now we value God most. Formerly,
we may have worried over our material needs most; now we worry about whether
we’re living as God would have us live.
The law says, “You shall not murder,” but we should strive for more; we
strive not to even be angry with our brother.16 While the world
values those who are materially rich, we seek something different—the blessings
of the poor in spirit.17 While the world would seem to reward those
who assert human justice and autonomy, we seek something better—the rewards of
the meek who will inherit the earth.18
Those who seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness are asking, seeking,
and knocking on the door to the kingdom.19They
are striving to enter the narrow way.20 They are seeking to do the
Father’s will.21 They do all these things because they understand
what comes first.
Jesus concludes His sermon:
whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken to a wise man
who built his house on the rock…But everyone who hear these sayings of Mine,
and does not do them, will be a like a foolish man who built his house on the
sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on
that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. (Mt 7:24-27)
All of us want to seek after the things that matter most—the things that
will provide a strong foundation for our church, for our family, and for our
life. To find this, we need to seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness.
For it is in hearing these teachings and doing them that we are like the
wise man who built his house on the rock. That house can withstand all manner
May the Lord bless each of us with such a solid foundation.