It would be a lot easier to enjoy your life if there weren’t so many things trying to kill you every day. The problems start even before you’re fully awake. There’s the fall out of bed that kills 600 Americans each year. There’s the early-morning heart attack, which is 40% more common than those that strike later in the day. There’s the fatal plunge down the stairs, the bite of sausage that gets lodged in your throat, the tumble on the slippery sidewalk as you leave the house, the high-speed automotive pinball game that is your daily commute.
Other dangers stalk you all day long. Will a [motorist’s] brakes fail when you’re [going to the mailbox]? Will you have a violent reaction to bad food? And what about the risks you carry with you all your life? The father and grandfather who died of coronaries in their 50s probably passed the same cardiac weakness on to you. The tendency to take chances on the highway that has twice landed you in traffic court could just as easily land you in the morgue. [“How Americans Are Living Dangerously,” Time, 11/26/06.]
We worry, don’t we? We worry about the ozone being depleted (at least the media would have us worry about that). We worry about job security and the next paycheck. We worry about our children. We worry about relationships. We used to worry about “the coming economic crisis.” Now we worry about how long it will be. We worry about our health (or the health of a family member). We worry about someone’s lack of salvation.
If you worry, Jesus has a word for you in Matthew 6:25-34. In fact, this passage complements the passage that preceded it. In 6:19-24, Christ addressed the rich who were tempted to trust in their wealth; in this passage, Christ addresses the disciples who were tempted to doubt their God.
Jesus simple message is: because you are a Christ-follower, do not be anxious.
Of course that might be perceived to be somewhat pie-in-the-sky unattainable; “sure — when pigs fly…” Why is that statement true? Why should we not be anxious? In this passage Jesus offers eight reasons why His followers should not engage in anxious thinking (and those reasons also tell us how we are able not to worry). And the penultimate reason is given in verse 33 — do not be anxious because there is only one ultimate priority in your life:
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33; NASB)
It is a tragic irony that we worry for physical needs, but are unconcerned spiritual needs. So Jesus’ words correct our sinful thinking. Do you need something to occupy your mind? Be consumed with Christ.
The truth in this verse is the replacement to worry and anxiety (put off-put on) — instead of cultivating sinful worry, be preoccupied with Christ. So Jesus says, “seek first…” The priority of our pursuit is God’s kingdom (6:10) and God’s righteousness (5:6). We seek those things with an unceasing quest — like a hungry hunter pursuing birds for his evening meal.
What does it mean to seek “His kingdom?” It means we anticipate, pray for, and share the gospel in anticipation of the coming of His literal, 1000-year millennial reign on earth. Further, to seek His kingdom is to live as if He is now king on the earth. To seek His kingdom is to willingly submit myself to His authority now. To seek His kingdom is to live for serving Him and seeing people come to know Him as King. That’s because to believe in Jesus Christ is to live wanting the king of kingdom and righteousness He gives; this is the one great priority in life. What we need is not a job or meal, but Christ.
Further, Jesus says to seek “His righteousness.” He is not talking here about saving faith and justification, but He means submission to His will. To seek His righteousness is to seek His priorities for all of our lives — like the example of Zecharias and Elizabeth (Luke 1:6) and in fulfillment of the OT command, “The righteous man shall live by faith” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17).
And the result of seeking our spiritual needs ahead of physical needs is he will provide both. He has given us Christ as our righteousness and our power to live righteously (Rom. 5-8); and He will also give us daily grace and daily provision for our daily needs (Mt. 6:34) — though not necessarily our daily “wants.”
When we are anxious for food or clothing or any other material need, our greater yearning must be the desire for conformity to Christ’s righteousness in our hearts more than a meal.