During more than 45 years as a disciple of Jesus I’ve often meditated on (and tested) Jesus’ simple statement in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” What things was He referring to? In this post I’ll explain exactly what Jesus meant, and provide some true personal stories that demonstrate how and why God did and didn’t provide them in my life.
So, what did Jesus mean when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you?” According to Jesus, if your single-minded focus is to advance God’s kingdom in heaven, then you should never worry about earthly things—your heavenly Father will be faithful to provide all the things you need to sustain your life on the earth.
This article will be an easy-to-understand exposition of Matthew 6:19-34, including real-life personal examples. When you finish reading it you’ll understand exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God
Jesus begins by challenging His listeners to examine their affections and priorities in life. What do they value the most?
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.Matthew 6:19-21
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Do Not Lay-up Treasures on Earth
Every earthly treasure is vulnerable to decay, loss, theft and inflation.
Worse yet, what good are earthly treasures when you die? We all came into this world naked, and that’s how we’ll leave it. You and I will leave all our earthly riches behind when our spirits leave our bodies.
Do Lay-up Treasures in Heaven
Unlike earthly treasures, heavenly treasures are permanent and safe.
If your treasures are in heaven, your heart will be focused on heavenly things. You’ll ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God’ on the earth.
How to lay up treasures in heaven?
Remember what Jesus said to the rich young ruler:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves with purses that will not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.Luke 12:33
Seek ye First the Kingdom of God — The Early Jerusalem Church’s Example
Just after Jesus was resurrected and the Holy Spirit filled thousands of disciples in the first Church in Jerusalem, they literally sold their properties and donated the money to the poor. As a result, everyone’s needs were met and the congregation enjoyed rich spiritual fellowship…
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. A sense of awe came over everyone, and the apostles performed many wonders and signs. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they shared with anyone who was in need. With one accord they continued to meet daily in the temple courts and to break bread from house to house, sharing their meals with gladness and sincerity of heart.Acts 2:42-46
Up to today this was the high point in the church’s spiritual life, and it’s been going downhill since then. But, the good news is that God destines His end-time overcomers to surpass the early church’s level of spiritual life, fellowship and power.
My ‘Living by Faith’ Experiment
Examples of ‘Living by Faith’
In the summer of 1976 I was an unemployed, newlywed Bible college student in Lakeland, Florida. I’d read about how Hudson Taylor, George Mueller, and Watchman Nee relied totally on God for their income.
I’d also become friends with John Taylor, a missionary who still serves in Honduras today. John is a living example of someone who ‘lives by faith’. What do I mean by that? To me, ‘living by faith’ means they never ask for money or communicate their needs to any people. They rely totally on God through prayer for all their needs.
My Failed ‘Living by Faith’ Experiment
So, in 1976 I decided to put this ‘live by faith’ method to the test. I told my new wife what I believed and informed her that, instead of getting a job, I would devote myself to prayer, Bible study, and any ministry God led me to do. In return, I ‘believed’ that God would provide our rent, grocery money, and any other needs through prayer. She was skeptical, but supportive.
The experiment lasted two months. Then, after our (borrowed) car ran out of gas one night we decided we could find and redeem glass cola bottles to buy enough gasoline to get us back to our apartment.
Then, after procuring some gas to get the engine started, I removed the air filter and poured an ounce of gasoline down into the carburetor (this was before electronic fuel injection). The engine backfired and the carburetor caught on fire. Fearing it would explode, my wife screamed at me frantically to get away from it, but I ignored her and soon beat the fire out with a wool blanket. Then she started crying, and I knew she couldn’t take much more. I started looking for a job the next day.
From this experience I learned a couple good lessons:
- God can and will provide money and other resources to support a person’s needs, but only when His leading prompts them to depend on this method of supply. It was presumptuous of me to expect Him to supply my needs without Him leading me to do so.
- Honest work that enables me to support my family is a gift and a blessing. Since then I’ve worked as a laborer, dishwasher, cook, janitor, warehouse-man, landscaper, military officer, cyber-security consultant, and IT project manager. My experiment of ‘living by faith’ wasn’t a failure. It taught me to be thankful for all of these jobs, no matter how humble.
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven Now?
I’m not advocating that you sell everything you own today and give all your money to the poor. As in the lesson I learned from my ‘living by faith’ experiment, such an action (without God’s leading) is presumptuous. Today’s Church is carnal and fragmented, and the early Jerusalem Church’s example doesn’t exist today.
However, within my lifetime I believe God will restore the early Jerusalem Church’s example. At the end of this age the Holy Spirit will guide sincere disciples of Jesus to return to this radical level of practical spirituality and fellowship as the living Body of Christ.
Then, it will be time for us to sell everything, give to the poor, and lay up treasures in heaven. The only question will be, “Will you serve God or will you serve mammon?”
The definition of Mammon is – material wealth or possessions especially as having a debasing influence.Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Seek ye First the Kingdom of God | No One C Two Masters
The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.Matthew 6:22-24
Jesus challenges us to ask, “What are we focused on?” If your treasures are in heaven, your heart will be full of light, oriented toward the things of heaven. But if your priorities and affections are earthly, your heart will be full of darkness, and oriented toward carnal, earthly things.
To serve God we must be single-minded. No one can serve two masters. We will either serve God or mammon, but we cannot serve both.
God’s Cure for Anxiety | Seek ye First the Kingdom of God
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”Matthew 6:25
If you fix eyes on God’s heavenly kingdom, you won’t need to worry about your physical needs. If you’re concentrating on advancing His kingdom, God will make sure your physical needs are met.
Don’t Worry About Eating
Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?Matthew 6:26
Think about it. As long as the billions of birds, fish, and animals function according to their place in creation, God provides food for them all. As humans, our rank is at the top of creation, even above angels. God literally made us in His own image.
Don’t Worry About Your Lifespan
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?Matthew 6:27
King David wrote, “My times are in Your hands.” (Psalm 31:15) We can establish a healthy lifestyle and avoid taking unnecessary risks, but after we’ve done these things we have absolutely no control over how long we’ll live in our body. It’s up to God.
Our physical, bodily lifespan is in God’s hands. But as long as we’re focusing on God’s kingdom as our first priority, God will make sure we physically live long enough to fulfill our God-given mission on earth.
Don’t Worry About Clothing
And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?Matthew 6:28-30
Clothing was Both Apparel and Shelter
In Israel 2000 years ago a man’s clothing served more functions than it does today.
The Bible required all Jewish men to travel to Jerusalem three times each year for the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. It’s about 100 miles (160 km) from Galilee to Jerusalem, and men walked the entire distance in 5-10 days, sleeping on the ground at night, using their outer robe (or mantle) for their bedding and blanket.
So, in addition to covering the body for modesty and warmth, a man’s clothing was his raincoat, tent, and sleeping bag. Without sufficient clothing a person would die of exposure.
Rich men often wore an ornate outer robe (some were made of silk). This was a sign to others that they didn’t need to condescend to sleeping on the ground.
No Spiritual Value in Beautiful Adornment
In contrast, what Jesus said about John the Baptist, who wore a camel’s hair robe with a leather belt:
What did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? Look, those who wear fine clothing are found in kings’ palaces…Matthew 11:8, 11
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
Jesus Himself “hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”Isaiah 53:2
Finally, my father once gave me this advice about the clothes I had to wear to church as a boy. “As long as your clothes are clean and the holes are patched, don’t be ashamed of what you’re wearing.”
Don’t Worry Like An Orphaned Pagan | You Have a Heavenly Father | He Will Provide
Do Not Worry!
Notice in the next verse that Jesus didn’t gently say “You don’t have to worry.”
Instead, as a direct result of the things He has said since verse 19 above, He emphatically commands us “DO NOT worry.”
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.Matthew 6:31-33
Jesus says, “therefore STOP WORRYING!” Stop acting like a pagan unbeliever who:
- Rejects God’s sacrifice for sin
- Lives in willful ignorance, sin, and rebellion against God
- Has no desire for holiness, and no right to approach God
- Cannot call God ‘my Father’
Instead of Worrying – Seek ye First the Kingdom of God
Your heavenly Father (and creator and sustainer) knows everything you need, even before and in more detail than you do.
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.Luke 12:6-7
So, instead of worrying about food, drink, clothing, or the length of your life, “Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all those things shall be added unto you!”
God’s promise is if you are seeking His spiritual kingdom and His righteousness, then your heavenly Father will provide everything you need to sustain you in this physical world.
My Alaskan Journey of Miracles
A few years after my ‘Living by Faith’ experiment, we had migrated from Florida, to Ohio, to Juneau, Alaska–the most beautiful capital city in America (in my opinion).
Then, after about a year in Juneau, I lost my good-paying job. I found work at minimum wage as a dishwasher, and later in a furniture warehouse. We moved into what people now call a ‘tiny house.’ In January 1978 our daughter was born and I didn’t have medical insurance to cover the expenses. As much as I loved Juneau, I knew something had to change in our financial situation and that meant I’d have to look elsewhere.
I piloted US Army helicopters pilot in the Vietnam war. When I returned to America I got an FAA commercial helicopter pilot’s license. After the war the helicopter pilot market was flooded with veterans with more experience than I had, so I couldn’t get a helicopter flying job.
As an alternative to helicopters, I wanted to become an Alaska bush pilot. However, I wasn’t an airplane pilot.
So, to become a bush pilot my first step was to attend a civilian flight school in Anchorage to get my commercial airplane pilot’s license.
My veteran’s educational benefits would cover most of the cost for the training, but not my travel, room & board in Anchorage, or my wife and baby’s expenses in Juneau while I was gone. Fortunately, my mother-in-law was living in the tiny house with us and she found a job in the hospital cafeteria, so she volunteered to cover their expenses in Juneau.
Anchorage to Palmer, then Back to Anchorage in 1 Day–By Faith
I had just-enough money to get a plane ticket for the 575-mile airline flight from Juneau to Anchorage. I didn’t know anyone in Anchorage, but the Church I attended in Juneau had some congregations in various places; one of which was in Palmer Alaska, 43 miles North of Anchorage.
After buying my one-way plane ticket I had about $50 remaining. We prayed and asked for God’s help. Then I boarded the plane with only a small backpack and flew to Anchorage in the autumn of 1978. Strangely, I wasn’t apprehensive; I had the peace of God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:7
Arrived in Anchorage Alaska by Noon. Started Walking to Palmer
I arrived before noon and started walking. With about 40 miles to cover, I ‘stuck out my thumb’ and hitch-hiked North out of the city of Anchorage toward Palmer. I didn’t have an exact address for my destination–a communal farm near Palmer–but I trusted that someone in that area would know where it was. (Remember, this was many years before the world had cellphones and the internet.)
I remember one driver who picked me up. He was in his late 20s, with the rough hands of someone who worked hard doing physical labor, maybe a homesteader. He seemed hostile when I talked about God, and he thought I was crazy for what I was doing. But he gave me some good general directions to my farm destination before he let me out of his pickup. God bless him.
In Palmer Alaska
I got to the farm in the mid-afternoon and introduced myself. We had many common friends, so that authenticated me as one of their brethren from Juneau. When they asked what my plans were, I told them I planned to attend flight training at Merrill Field in Anchorage, 40 miles away.
I was ecstatic to learn that they’d just started an outreach near Merrill Field, with 5 guys who rented a house within walking distance of the airport. The guys were working for another brother in Anchorage who owned a ServiceMaster janitorial business, cleaning office buildings at night. To make everything perfect, one of the brothers from Palmer was driving into Anchorage shortly afterward and would take me to the house where the 5 guys were staying.
Back to Anchorage
I arrived back in Anchorage in time for supper.
God Provided All My Needs
I was able to stay in that house near the airport, sharing the rent and expenses with 5 guys while working in the janitorial business at night and getting my FAA airplane commercial and instrument licenses during the day.
Looking back on it, I know God miraculously provided for me, from the time I left Juneau until I ‘got back on my feet’ financially again. As I achieved my goals I never missed a meal or lacked a warm place to sleep.
Shortly after finishing flight training my family joined me in Anchorage where we continued to slowly prosper. Our son was born there in 1979. By then I had a good-paying job with medical insurance coverage.
Do Not Be Anxious About Tomorrow, but Seek ye First the Kingdom of God
Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.Matthew 6:34
Finally, don’t worry about God’s provision for tomorrow either. If you’re walking in God’s will, and seeking His kingdom and righteousness first in your life, God’s provision will be there when you need it.
In Conclusion | Seek ye First the Kingdom of God
Through a detailed exposition of Matthew 6:19-34, illustrated with examples from personal experience, I’ve demonstrated that if you ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God’ and His righteousness as your first priority in life, then you should never worry about:
- Whether you’ll have enough to eat
- The length of your life
- Whether you’ll have adequate clothing and shelter
- Tomorrow’s provision.
If you ‘seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness’, then you can absolutely rely and depend on Him to take care of your physical needs on the earth.
What Do You Think?
Did this article answer all your questions on this topic? Please leave a comment below and tell me:
- Are you satisfied by the information in this article?
- Or, did it leave you wanting more?
Related Questions and Answers
Presumption versus Faith
Q: Why didn’t God miraculously provide during my ‘Living by Faith’ experiment in Florida, but He did miraculously provide during my Alaska Journey of Miracles? What was the difference?
A: In the ‘Living by Faith’ experiment I was presumptuous–I had the ability to work and God hadn’t told me to live by faith, so He wasn’t obliged to provide what I could earn myself. But, in my trip to Anchorage I wasn’t presumptuous. I was desperately trying to do what I sincerely thought was the best way to support my family, and God blessed my effort by directing my steps and providing the resources that enabled me to achieve and prosper.
Why is it important to seek God’s righteousness?
Q: Matthew 6:33 says ‘Seek ye first His kingdom and His righteousness…” What does it mean to seek God’s righteousness and why is that important?
A: This is a big topic, but I’ll try to answer it succinctly… Only the righteous can enter the kingdom of God, which is where God’s presence dwells.
God encourages to receive the righteousness of Jesus as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8) by repenting of your sins and believing in His sacrifice for your sins (John 3:16). Then, you’ll be ‘begotten-again’ as a spiritual child of God (1 Peter 1:23) and your soul will slowly grow in righteousness, day-by-day like Samson’s hair, by cooperating with God’s Holy Spirit within you (Romans 12:2). This process of transformation will continue until you receive your glorified, sin-proof body.
Until then, we all must continue to pursue this transformation into Jesus’ likeness, or we will slip back into carnality and compromise with the world.
Q: Is your wife still with you after all you put her through?
A: Yes, my wife is still with me, and yes, she’s a real trooper! God blessed me ‘big-time’ with her!