Seek First

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness
Then all these things (your needs) will be added – to your life and heart and soul and joy.

I have long meditated on this verse for the purpose of making a part of the very foundation for the way I live life. Whether things are going well or poorly financially, socially or mentally, I have sought to make this the mainspring for my motives in order to stay in right relationship with my God.

But for a long time I puzzled over the real meaning of this word kingdom. I have been asking God to show me what that actually means for my own life. The seeking His righteousness part has been becoming more clear to me over recent years, for after I shifted from focusing so much on righteousness in my own life (to 'get ready for Jesus to come') toward celebrating and meditating on how good God's righteousness is, things make so much more sense to me. Now I am becoming obsessed with discovering more about God's righteousness – how fair and compassionate and forgiving and faithful He is along with everything else I can learn about Him. I am coming to see that it is the central issue of our opinions about what God is like that lies at the very center of the war we are in.

But the kingdom part of this verse has remained somewhat mystifying for me. When I was young I used to think that maybe seeking first His kingdom meant getting a job working for the church. That notion is long obsolete for me now, but nothing has really come forward clearly to replace it. So I simply keep reminding myself of this promise to keep my priorities in right sequence while I keep asking God to reveal to me what He means by this word kingdom.

Well, this morning I found myself again pondering over this same verse and asking God this same question again, when suddenly an answer flashed into my mind. In essence what He said to me was, “You are focusing too much on the wrong word here. The key to finding the definition for the word kingdom can be found by following the word first. Then you will find what you have been looking for.”

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24)

Many years ago I went through a tech school in Houston, Texas where I learned computer technology and computer programming. That was one of the best training experiences of my life, not because it taught me so much about computers or got me a good job, but because it gave me much needed discipline in the area of reasoning and thinking precisely. It forced me to challenge every assumption in my thinking processes, for I quickly learned that computers are incredibly stupid even though they can think phenomenally fast. The only thing a computer can do is to use the logic written into its programs by the writer, and if there is even one command line that fails to take into account every possible detail of logic that might occur, the computer program can 'crash' and unpredictable results can occur.

One of the things that I learned about in programming was what is called an if/then statement. This is where the program script defines a decision based on information flowing through the line of logic commands created by the programmer. A set of command lines is inserted into the program where the direction of the flow of information will be based on whether certain conditions are true or false. If they are true then a certain direction in the program will be followed. If it is false then another direction is determined. This is one of the most fundamental rudiments of computer programming that exists.

After I learned about this it quickly became evident to me that life is filled with if/then choices that determine all sorts of things. The Bible also has many if/then statements and once I learned this basic concept I discovered that I could think more clearly and arrive at better conclusions in all areas of life. I think that is sometimes called discernment. But I also learned the hard way while practicing how to program computers that if I failed to take into account even the slightest assumption in my own reasoning process and failed to incorporate it into the program I was writing, it would be impossible to get the computer to replicate the results I arrived at in my own mind. In short, the computer could not share any of the assumptions that my own mind used so frequently. It could only work with what was clearly written into the logic code and nothing else.

What I also began to realize is that this concept of an if/then statement is actually a principle, a description of a fundamental reality created by God by which everything functions naturally. I have been learning that everything God has created (which is everything without any exceptions) operates on natural principles that function by cause and effect rather than arbitrary decisions. Over recent years it is becoming clear to me that notions about God imposing rewards or punishments are all linked back to ideas connected with the wrong Tree in the Garden of Eden and do not come from God's kingdom.

To ignore these principles God has set in place is not to incur arbitrary punishment by Him but rather produces natural, unavoidable consequences. God does not need to interfere with the principles He has put in place in order to make things come out right. He has designed truth right into the 'programs' written in all of creation the necessary code that all works together to produce His intended results. Only as we step out of harmony with how that code is designed do we violate our embedded code which results in all the malfunction that ensues.

Now, some may be wondering how this 'rabbit trail' about computer programming might have anything to do with discovering the meaning of the word kingdom. Yet what came to my mind this morning was exactly that, because maybe my mind has been trained to operate along these lines. For me, this was a key to uncovering the true definition of the term 'kingdom'. It operates as an if/then principle.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness;
Then all these things (your needs) will be added.

First – go to your brother or sister and be reconciled;
Then – offer your gifts to God (gifts that were already given to you by Him to start with).

God's kingdom is not of this world and does not even resemble the way we think about or construct kingdoms. I realize now this is why for many years I remained confused about what was behind this term. Now it is starting to make more sense to me as I now perceive that God's kingdom revolves around this core issue of reconciliation.

God's kingdom revolves around a central hub that is defined by the core activity of reconciliation. I am starting to see that this is the theme of the entire message of the gospel all throughout the Bible but most explicitly revealed in the New Testament. Reconciliation is not a peripheral issue but is the central passion of God's heart. And the principle of reconciliation is what will eventually and permanently resolve forever the problem of evil. The definition of God's kingdom is found in everything having to do with reconciliation, both with God and with each other. This is the definition from the Bible that I have been puzzling over and looking for for so long.

The implications of this new light, at least for me are far-reaching.

For one thing, if I refuse to embrace and actively practice reconciliation (which necessarily requires humbling myself), I betray the gospel and my Savior who came to reconcile all of us back to God. What He has been showing me for some time now is that the core problem of evil and sin does not center around broken rules but is focused entirely on the broken heart of a God whose reputation has been slandered and rejected by all who insist on believing lies about how He feels about them.

It was to expose all of these lies about God that Jesus came to this earth to expose to us the heart of the Father. And it became most distinct in the grand finale of that exposé in the events leading up to His death where Jesus demonstrated the most explicit revelation of the heart of pure love that has ever been at the heart of the universe in God. It was the revelation of pure love and unconditional forgiveness demonstrated by Jesus in the face of raging evil that displayed clearly that God is not against us but rather we are against Him.

Reconciliation is at the center of what the kingdom of God is all about. His kingdom is not about ruling over others or imposing order and discipline on an out-of-control universe or even our rebellious world. The message of the gospel is the good news that God is not our problem in the alienation we find ourselves in that is causing so much pain and suffering for us. The problem is rooted totally in the lies we continue to harbor about Him that prevent us from trusting Him fully and enjoying His love flowing through us in life-giving currents to others.

An additional insight came to me along this line as I thought on these things. In each of the messages to the seven churches in the first part of Revelation, there is a promise to those who overcome. Other places throughout that book references are also made to people who are called overcomers. This term has created much guilt-trip baggage for me since childhood, and not until recently have I started to break free from those faulty assumptions. Today along that line, another major breakthrough helps me see even more clearly what is really in a proper understanding of this term.

To be an overcomer means to overcome my internal resistance to love, to forgiving and to embrace being forgiven and loved. My battle of faith is not about tackling others who differ in their views of God or religion or even how they define reality. The entire battle each of us needs to face all happens within our own minds and hearts. This battle happens in the way we think and process and reason and is especially affected by our assumptions and presuppositions that remain obstacles which must be overcome if we are to move into the reconciliation that God desires with us.

I have to be careful not to turn this admonition into yet another opportunity for a guilt trip, either for myself or for anyone else. Overcoming and reconciliation are both personal choices that have to be made individually. But the good news is that the more internal resistance I overcome by exposing and dispelling lies embedded inside of me about God, the closer I come toward being reconciled with God through embracing the real truth about how He feels about me. The more clearly my heart grasps the truth about God's kind heart towards me, the more my own relationships and attitudes and reactions towards those around me begin to transform and better reflect the kind of God that Jesus came to reveal.

Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24)

As is often the case, after receiving some of these thoughts from God this morning, I opened my devotional book to discover that He had confirmation waiting to affirm what I was learning.

If when you come to the altar, there you remember that your brother has anything against you, not—If you rake up something by a morbid sensitiveness, but—“If thou rememberest,” that is, it is brought to your conscious mind by the Spirit of God: “first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Never object to the intense sensitiveness of the Spirit of God in you when He is educating you down to the scruple.1

How can I tell the difference between true conviction by God's Spirit and my own morbid penchant for dredging up internal dirt and guilt, especially after a lifetime of habitually beating myself up with guilt?

I believe that answer is to examine what is motivating the conviction. Is the compulsion contaminated with a spirit of fear? Or am I feeling positive desires and longings awakening within my wounded, damaged heart to experience a healing embrace from my true Father? If the primary motivation to seek reconciliation involves fear, then I need to be very suspicious that it may be coming from the wrong source. I have lived there far too long in my own experience and want to break free of such false guilt.

...fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)

This is a powerful and very liberating verse for me. But I need to backup a little here and get more context for this statement starting in verse 10.

Here is [the essence of] love: [It is] not that we loved God [first], but that He loved us [See Rom. 5:6-8] and sent His Son to be a “covering over” [see 2:2] of our sins. (1 John 4:10 (AUV)

...He loves us and [He] sends the son [of] him {to be} restitution about the offenses [of] us. (ANT)

And tracing back the reference suggested here I find even more.

And He is the One who provides a “covering over” [thereby the forgiveness] of our sins [See Heb. 2:17; Dan. 9:24; II Chron. 29:24], and not of ours [who are already Christians] only, but also of the sins of the people of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 (AUV)

The kingdom of heaven is now beginning to make much more sense to me. To seek first the kingdom of heaven means to seek reconciliation with anyone that I am convicted by God's Spirit to reconcile with at any time. I cannot afford to hold onto an offense a minute longer whenever I become aware of it. Studying Matthew 18 for other three months made that quite clear to me.

One more thought that I feel is important to note here. Reconciliation has little to do with coming into compliance with the logic or doctrines or thinking of another person. Reconciliation is not about seeking uniformity, for that is a counterfeit method that also comes from the enemy. Rather, reconciliation has everything to do with the condition of my spirit in relation to others, not about my ideas. While it is true that my beliefs and opinions will have much influence on the condition of my spirit and made indeed need a lot of adjusting, I will not be able to reconcile with my brother or sister if I insist on focusing on our differences of belief or opinions.

The main issue Jesus had in mind when He spoke of our need for reconciliation was not about insisting that one or the other of us has to be right or wrong. That is too often the confrontational approach too many of us have made with tragic results most of the time. Rather, Jesus teaches us that what is most needed is for us to humble ourselves before each other so that our dispositions may come into harmony with the principles of respect, freedom and caring for each other's heart. And the more clearly we see that God treats us in these ways the easier it will become for us to treat each other with the same respect and honor and love.

The kingdom of God that is not at all like the kingdoms of this world but is all about reconciling as many as possible back into harmony with the passionate love that God always has towards each one of us. God's kingdom is about moving as many as possible as quickly as possible back into harmony with our original design at creation. This is championing the true purpose of the kingdom Jesus brought to our attention, the process of restoration which describes what the process of salvation is all about. We are joining in with Jesus in rightly representing the real truth about His Father, seeking to better reflect His glory so as to attract others to want to know Him better for themselves.

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
1 Chambers, O. (1986). My utmost for his highest: Selections for the year. Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications.


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