Right out of the gate, Jesus' main message was that the kingdom of God was upon us. He was adamant about driving home this important news. When He sends his disciples (along with 60 other followers) ahead of Him to proclaim the gospel in other cities, He instructs them to, "Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you'" (Luke 10:9).
During the His well-known Sermon on the Mount, Jesus approaches the kingdom from another perspective:
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? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed 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 fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear?" For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:25–34, emphasis added).
Seeking the kingdom first
Jesus' original audience lived an entirely different lifestyle than we do today. They didn't have grocery stores or refrigerators. A good portion of daily life was spent thinking about the needs of that day. Where was their food going to come from? Would they need to slaughter a goat? Scrounge up enough money to run to the open air market? Share with a neighbor?
They had to think about daily life in a way that doesn't make a lot of sense to many of us in modern culture (although there are still many people for whom survival is a day-to-day consideration).
Jesus wasn't saying that these people shouldn't think about these concerns. He was challenging them not to prioritize those worries. Instead of making today's needs their primary concern, He challenged them to seek God's kingdom first, to make God's rule a priority in their life.
It wasn't Jesus' intention to dismiss legitimate concerns about daily needs. His point was that every single day comes jam-packed with things to worry about. If we're not careful, those matters will crowd out kingdom interests. By putting the kingdom first, the people could stay rightly aligned with God while still meeting their daily requirements.
What does this mean for us?
Many of us in modern culture aren't worried about where our next meal will come from or whether we have clothes to wear. But that doesn't mean that we don't have our own worries (many that first-century people would be surprised about).
When our number-one concern is whether or not God has authority in our lives, we're putting the kingdom first. By doing that, our worries naturally end up in the backseat. In fact, when we put the kingdom first, many of these things work themselves out naturally.
How do you know if you're seeking the kingdom of God? Read "4 Signs You’re Walking in the Spirit," to consider signs of the kingdom in your life.
All Scripture references quote the New International Version unless otherwise noted.