“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6: 32-33)
One thing that astounds me about reading the gospels is how busy Jesus was. Or, maybe it’s more accurate to say that the world around him tried to make him busy. There was one incarnate Savior—one God-man—and because human beings can only be in one place at one time, Jesus’ humanity made him highly desired yet scarce. People wanted to see him and to be healed by him. The disciples wanted his attention, too. I certainly would have been among them tugging at his clothes.
I don’t think we can fathom the demands on Jesus’ time. Crowds followed him constantly, pleading and demanding his time. He’d go from crowd to boat, and when the bow of his boat slid upon land once again there’d be another crowd waiting for him.
And we think we’re busy.
It amazes me that Jesus never let the demands on his time rush him. Jesus sleeps in the front of boats, and he regularly takes time to retreat in the mountains to pray to his Father. He is purposeful, yet at peace.
The Source of Anxiety
Some days I resonate with Jesus’ spirit. Some days I can feel that measured calm. But if I’m honest, most days I’m frantic and anxious (or at least too many days I am). How about you? If you’re honest, are you more peaceful or panicked? We all have anxious moments, and I’m here to tell you why: because we’re seeking the wrong kingdom.
It is one thing to say that God provides for us, but yet another to truly believe it. To see each bite on our forks as a gift of sustenance from the Creator. But that’s the truth. That which keeps us alive is not our efforts, nor good luck, nor America—we are kept alive by the God who spoke the world into existence. Too often we forget that, and when we forget who provides for us we worry about how we’ll make ends meet or how we look to other people.
Even more dangerous than the anxiety that unbelief brings is the temptation to build our own kingdoms. Our culture affirms this via social media. Everyone is their own paparazzi, snapping pictures of their wonderful moments while off camera their lives are still messy. We work hard to acquire more of that which does not satisfy: money, power, good looks, and so on. And all of this kingdom-building is done in the kingdom of another. We can try to ignore him, but not for long. The King will be made known.
If we are Christ-followers and thus have been adopted into the family of God, when we seek to build God’s kingdom first we are working not only for God’s glory, but also our own best interests. Our Father is a good Father, and he withholds no good thing from us. Seeking to do his will is not to wear shackles, it is to tear them off. He designed this world in a certain way, with seasons and physics and wisdom all operating per his design. Operating by his commandments is thus the most logical and beneficial thing to do.
Seeking God’s Kingdom First
So how do we seek God’s kingdom first? What does that look like?
Well, let’s get something straight: God is not facing a labor shortage. Yes, the harvest is plenty and the laborers are few (Matthew 9:37), and yes God often works through human hands. But he didn’t create the world with human hands, nor do human hands keep the earth spinning on its axis. He needs no help, but he offers us the blessed opportunity to do his will. It’s like having your kid mow the grass. You could mow the yard much quicker, with cleaner lines and less mess—but allowing your kid to mow is a great benefit to them.
To seek God’s kingdom—which I think is synonymous with doing his will—is to, in order of priority, love God deeply and love others as he has loved us (Matthew 22:37-40).
Loving God includes seeking him through Scripture, prayer, nature, community, and art. The person after God’s own heart wants to know what God has to say (Scripture) and wants to see what he has spoken into existence (nature, art. Etc.). To seek God is to be a part of his church, which Jesus built upon the ground he irrigated with his own blood.
Loving others includes those inside and outside the community of God. It is hard and it is worth it. Love is not a feeling, but rather a doing. So we love our enemies, our neighbors, our kids, our brothers and sisters in Christ, our elected officials, and so on. God’s people are not known because they look a certain way or because they shout the loudest, but rather because they love with the outrageous love of Christ.
Seek first the kingdom of God. It is best for you and it is best for the world that you do so. Put your silly cardboard kingdom aside; the King has a job for you.