What does it mean to “seek first” the kingdom of God, and His righteousness? Seek is an active word, not a passive word. Seeking means to keep going until you find what you are looking for. It is not half-hearted effort, poking around in convenient places with a toe or a finger. It is a whole body effort, straining to move heavy objects if they get in the way or pushing past people who might try to stop you. Seeking gets to be single-minded, forgetting everything in the urge to find what is being sought.
To place something first means to give it priority over everything else. Coupled with the word “seek” Jesus is saying the kingdom and God’s righteousness are before everything else in our lives. Even food and clothes. All activities or goals or plans or priorities get subordinated to the kingdom and God’s righteousness. Placing these things first frames our life, informs every decision, and drives all the other parts of living. We ask ourselves if what we are doing or where we are going will take us further or get us closer to the number one thing on our priority list. We don’t let anything as mundane as food or clothing stop us from attaining our goal.
His kingdom is His household, and His righteousness is outlined for us in His Law.
And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today? (Deuteronomy 4:8, ESV)
The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious. (Isaiah 42:21, ESV)
For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. (Romans 2:13, ESV)
If you have to find your car keys before going to the store for groceries you tend to seek in ways that you wouldn’t if you were just looking for dropped popcorn between seat cushions. Take out your “To Do” list (or lists). Put God’s kingdom and righteousness at the top. Does it change the items on your list? Does it change your priorities? Does it characterize things differently? Do you begin asking yourself if the other things on the list will help you realize the one at the top? Or do you just skip over it or put it off for another day like a trip to the hardware store?