Matthew 6:33 (ESV) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
How many times have we said, “seek first the kingdom and everything we need will be given to us?” It’s like a charismatic formula. I seek the Kingdom and then God responds by giving me everything I need. Simple but incorrect. We are not told to just seek the kingdom, but to seek the Kingdom AND His righteousness. Is there a difference. Yes!
What is the Kingdom? It’s where God rules and reigns, or where His power and authority are in evidence. Jesus told those listening that the Kingdom of God was evidenced by casting out demons among them.
Luke 11:20 (ESV) —But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
In Mt. 11 when John had sent his disciples to ask if Jesus was the Messiah, His response to John was “the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear and the dead are raised” and then Jesus begins to tell them about the Kingdom being forcefully advanced in the earth. The Kingdom of God is about the power and authority of God over the powers of darkness in the earth. It is the power of God over sickness, demonic possession and even death. But there was another component in Mt. 6 to receiving all God has for us. Righteousness!
What is His righteousness? This is His standard of moral conduct. It’s how we live. It’s the character of God revealed in the lives of His followers. Too often we want the power without the character, and this is when things go awry. Jesus told His followers that unless their righteousness exceeded that of the Pharisees, they could not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:20) There was an “external righteousness” that was put on display, but it was not a righteousness that had penetrated their hearts. The law of God is His moral code for living in a way that pleases Him. But this law must be in our hearts and not just our external ritualistic actions. For example, giving to the poor may look like a righteous deed, but it does not mean that we love others. Praying may look righteous and holy, but is our heart truly engaging God or are we only satisfying a religious requirement?
Matthew 6:33 is a two-sided coin of Kingdom and Righteousness, not one or the other. Is it possible to experience the Kingdom without possessing the Righteousness of God? Is it possible to experience the power of the Kingdom while at the same time not possessing the character of God in our lives? Scripture reveals the answer is Yes!
Matthew 7:21–23 (ESV) — 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Jesus explained there will be those who operate in the power of the Kingdom over the powers of darkness, yet they do not possess the righteousness of God. They will even prophesy, but they will not possess the righteousness of God. Sadly, it is their lack of righteousness (doing the will of the Father) that will keep them from entering the eternal Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said when they stand before Him “on that day”, they will be found lacking in the quality that allowed them entrance into God’s Kingdom…Righteousness. (Mt. 5:20)
How do we satisfy this Righteous requirement? Jesus explained this to the lawyer in Luke 10.
Luke 10:25–28 (ESV) — 25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Loving God and loving others is the key to living a righteous life. In Matthew 22:40, Jesus told the Pharisees that all the law and all the messages of the prophets depend or hang on our loving God and loving others.
Can we have righteousness and not operate in the Kingdom, as Jesus illustrated? Yes. This is why Jesus said it was important that Holy Spirit come and lead us into all truth (John 15:26). Jesus was anointed by Holy Spirit and went about healing the sick and casting out demons. (Acts 10:38) The church has operated for centuries in a form of godliness, but with out power. We need both.
During our time of fasting and prayer and as we think of seeking first His kingdom, let’s not separate the Kingdom of God from His righteous standard. And also, let’s not be afraid of operating in the authority and power of the Kingdom while we seek to live in a way that pleases God. Jesus went about doing good and casting out demons simultaneously. This is our standard of living, and this is our standard of seeking first the Kingdom!