What does “first” mean in Matthew 6:33?
So how do we explain the word “first” in Matthew 6, if there is no “second” as we argued in part 1? I am not a Greek scholar, and therefore I do not master the order of words in Greek sentences. Nevertheless, in light of the evidences already brought forth, I will postulate that Matthew 6:33 should have been translated:
Matthew 6:33 – But first seek ye the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Instead of “seek ye first” as found in just about all biblical translations, I believe we should understand “first seek ye”. There is a difference, and it is a significant one. When one says “seek ye first” the word “first” refers to the object to be sought (in Matthew 6, it is the kingdom of God and His righteousness). And we can ask…Seek ye first what? Answer: the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And because of that, logic dictates that what must come after should be “seek ye second this” (or something similar), which could also be followed by “seek ye third that”. “First”, “second” and “third” all refer to what needs to be sought after, the actual objects.
In stark contrast, when one says “first seek ye”, the word “first” refers to the action of seeking, not to the object to be sought after. And we can ask…First, do what? Answer: seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And therefore, in this case, what must come after needs not being another action of seeking (as in “seek ye second”). What comes second could be the outcome of performing the action seeking, or anything else for that matter. I believe this is precisely the meaning of Matthew 6:33: “First, seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then all these things will be added unto you”. There is one and only one thing to seek (God’s kingdom and His righteousness), and there is one resulting outcome for seeking that “one” thing (everything else will added to us).
So why does this matter?
I believe to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness is so much easier to do when we realize that it is the only thing we are supposed to be doing. And yes, to be honest, this could be quite an unsettling statement.
But it is only the case because we have become deeply hardwired into being concerned about our own needs (ourselves, our families, our loved ones). Yet, God’s children should not be afraid by Matthew 6:33, at least if our interpretation is correct. Quite the contrary, to follow Jesus’ commandment of Matthew 6:33 is the best way to test and increase our reliance on God. This is how we fulfill our part of our relationship with our Father.
If King Solomon’s story is any indication, the promise that everything will be added to us as we focus on nothing but God is an absolute certainty: Our needs in all categories will be met. These needs we have are legitimate, and Jesus Himself acknowledges them in Matthew 6. But when we believe that Jesus has given us permission to seek them as long as we seek God first, that is when everything gets very complicated. Everything gets complicated because 1) we are left wrestling with the question on how to put God first in our lives (which is the reason why everyone has a different opinion on it) and 2) we are now confronted with Jesus’ rebuke (in the same chapter mind you) that it is impossible to serve two masters (Matthew 6: 24, 25) because we will eventually despise one of them. And if life has taught us anything, it is typically God we end up despising. So, “See ye first” or “First seek ye”? What is your take?
What you share here makes a lot of sense. If we ” first seek ye” the kingdom of God then as stated in the verse, our reward would be “everything else will be added unto you”. But if we go with “seek ye first “, then of course what is second, and in that case what reward do we get for the second or third we are seeking?the word doesn’t mention a recompense or reward for seeking second and third….. So really what would be the purpose of even seeking second and third ?!! None! Because “first seek ….” The kingdom of God and we really do not need anything else.
Very good way of understanding this verse , thank you.
Thank you very much Rita for your insightful comment. I appreciate it!
Praise Yahweh , very good study on one of the biggest misunderstandings of our day. It is all about Yahwehs kingdom and all of His righteous ways. All of the good news is based on this fact Yahshua is the King and the only way into the presenence of our Father.
We are going to live in Yahwehs kingdom for eternity and can begin right now. Behold the kingdom of Yahweh is within us.
Keep up the good. Work. Yah bless and Shalom
Amen to your words Pat! Amen!
This word has been a blessing to me. With life, it’s so easy to seek God once we’ve tried everything else, but he should have sought after first and the very things we are chasing after, chase us.
We start focusing on breaking bad habits and literally doing our duty to fear God and keep his commandments daily.
God bless you for sharing.
Amen to these words Tyson. May the grace of God be with you always!
In Jesus Name.
I’m no Greek scholar either, but for some reason, neither version “seek ye first” or “first seek ye” alter in my opinion the sense of the verse in light of the context; furthermore “First” regardless where placed may refer to the sequence of events rather than the enumeration of objects, no?
But precisely, my opinion is that if it is referring to the sequence of events, then this verse is telling us that the second event is that “all those things will be added”. So for me, I see no basis for understanding this verse as permitting us to “seek” other things.
Very interesting post. Although it is a very simple concept – the action of seeking God’s kingdom first, life can cloud our perspective and cause us to seek God’s kingdom after we’ve hit the PANIC button lol. This post is a wonderful reminder of things to do…and in what order. Thanks!
Thank you Liz! Yes, we would even need the PANIC button if we simply focused on God. He already knows all the needs we have. God bless!
Thank you. This was very helpful.
Thank you Mamie! Comments like this makes someone’s day. May you stay strong for our Lord!
Dear Mamie! Thank you for taking the time to drop this line. Stay strong dear sister, and may the Lord be with you richly in these last days. Amen.
Thank you so much for part 1 and 2 of this article. This view of focusing on God’s kingdom [solely] is life changing for me. My spirit accepts this and feels at peace when I imagine myself actually living this way; however, my soul wants to run. I am so accustomed to thinking about myself first-my wants, my needs, my life- that it almost seems impossible for me to change. But, I know that the Holy Spirit has the will and power to change someone like me.
Thank you so much for this post. It is leading me into a higher level of spiritual maturity.
My spirit is filled with joy as I read your comment Charmaine. The Lord knows those who are His, and like you said, the Holy Spirit is here, with us, and in us, precisely to help us live a life that is according to God’s standard. We cannot do it on our own, but trust in Him, humble yourself before to obey His voice, and then just watch the transformation take place. He has the Will and the Power to change us.
May our Lord bless Charmaine!
So in other words to Seek His Kingdom and His righteousness would mean to put God first ,and to put God first i take it you mean to put God first is to speak to God (prayer) listen which actually is quite hard, but to hear God, we would read the word,though God speaks in many ways through creation,other people,the media etc. Just trying to clarify, as at the mo i feel God is saying to me seek my kingdom and my righteousness, and I’m thinking I’m trying to but what does it really mean..in a nutshell i guess (Put God first) ,to put God first is to trust Him ,really rely on Him, to do that you go to God in prayer, wait on Him and hold on tight.
Hello Jean, I apologize the late response. May the Lord bless you for your comment. Yes, to put God first is really to rely on Him, and to rely on Him for everything. Prayer is crucial in the process. A practical action is to continuously offer yourself to Him in prayer (God, may your will be done in me. Father, give me a heart to recognize and submit to your will. Give a hear to recognize your voice, and obey it…). God will not be silent to such a prayer, when that prayer is genuine. It may be unsettling at first to pray as such, because frankly we do not know what plan God has for us, and we would prefer that the plan does not involve trials and difficulties. But continue in that prayer, and you will see how He respond.
He said…3 John 4: I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth…
So can He ignore the prayer of the humble who asks Him to show him how to walk in truth?
God bless Jean! And may the Lord be with you in your spiritual journey…it may seems hard, but stay faithful in that prayer, and you will see yourself transformed, and realize that He is the One who is really carrying the load.
I felt more at peace reading this than some other articles I’ve read on this subject. It is quite relieving to know that we can just focus only on what is needful (first seeking God and His righteousness) . My only question relates to the place of our secular jobs and other things we engage while here on earth. We can’t spend every day a week and every month of the year praying and studying the bible I guess? So how do our jobs and businesses (as the case may be) come in? A helpful answer will be appreciated.
May God be praised for the peace He has filled you heart with through this article. Your question is an excellent one. Myself, I hold a secular job full time and I believe that if one was to do nothing more than studying the bible, that person would not be seeking the Kingdom of God. This is because God is in the business of being “in the midst” of society, interacting with the people and working with them. This is exactly what Jesus-Christ did. It is the only way others will have the opportunity to see the “other”, “better” life that those who serve Jesus-Christ live and offer. And therefore, what you do is actually “bringing” to the Kingdom of God and His righteousness where it is most needed…the world.
The key is to make a conscious effort to dedicate yourself to God daily, by what you say in your prayers. You offer yourself to Him, asking Him to do His work in you, always, and to use you as He sees fit for His own glory! How, can He refuse such request?
If your primary focus is on Him (not on your job promotion or else), you will see that He will open opportunities for you – wherever you are (be it your job, your business) – to experience His Kingdom, by helping you overcome all sort of trials, and by becoming a light in your environment, a light which your customers and coworkers will never be able to ignore, but will get to witness every time they come around you.
Yes, Jennifer…you can bring the Kingdom where you are! I hope this answer was helpful :). Blessings!!
Wow this is awesome I never looked at this scripture the way you broke it down,I know in my Spirit that this is the way, we are to totally depend on God and all the stress any anxiety vanishes, when we totally receive this word in our hearts knowing that he is Lord over our lives
Amen to your words! And may the Lord be with you. I pray that the Lord continue to work in all of us who love Him. He is faithful and He is our Lord…how can He demand anything else than our full commitment to Him. And how can He not reward with peace and abundant living those who do strive to obey His voice?
May the Lord continue to bless us and may we in return pray for others, that we may all grow in the unity of the Spirit, in the perfect bond of peace.
In His name dear Kathy! In His name! Amen.
I have been feeling like hitting many invisible walls in my life and I’ve searched many biblical formulas to attain the miraculous undefeated victorious life I’ve been dreaming. And I always feel confounded, shocked, when I see these formulas fail, like I’ve been using wrong formula to solve a difficult math problem. I hope this will be the ultimate formula to solve this difficult thing I’ve been trying to figure out. And may God direct me specifically what to do solely seeking His Kingdom in my daily life.
Appreciate if you would be able to support in prayers
Please pardon the length of my response. Oh did I feel something in my heart when reading your comment, perhaps God allowing me to experience just a portion of your burden.
Yes, I have been praying for you since reading your comments, because I know how faithful God is toward the prayers of His saints.
I am not sure about the formulas you have tried to apply in the past, or how they were taught to you. But one thing I know:
“God’s children do not have the ability on their own to perform what they desire.”
This is the case because the desires of those who love God are given by God Himself. And whatever desire or work God gives us can only be accomplished by His Holy Spirit in us. We on the other hand, simply do not have what it takes to accomplish those.
Look at this verse:
Zechariah 4:6 – Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.
Now consider what the Apostle Paul says here:
1 Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the “grace” of God that was with me.
See how I highlighted the last section? Not only does God give you the desires to serve Him (as I can clearly see from your posts), but He actually performs the work “through” you as well. Paul would have never been able on His own to perform the desires God placed in Him. And the desire God placed in Him was so big that He was actually ready to die for God.
So the formula is this: Pray my dear friend. Do not worry, but pray daily that He transforms you. Pray that His will be done in you. Pray for His wisdom. Prays for hears to listen to Him and knowledge to understand His will. Pray to love like He loves. And pray that He teaches you to pray.
…then watch…simply watch How His Grace will start to work in you and through you…just like it did with Paul (Remember, He is the God that does not change). That is the only formula: He is the One who both places the desires to please Him, and work those desires out of you. Your role, pray, and offer yourself to Him daily in prayer. He will place you in situation where you will have no choice but to act, He will set things up where you will have no choice but to extend kindness. he will arrange things such that you will just want to publicly glorify Him. He, and He alone will do the work in you…and you will become His trusted partner, His co-laborer in this process.
He loves you Candra…just pray daily, offer yourself daily…and He will reveal Himself to you and through you. That is the formula.
Love you much in the Lord Candra;
Thank you so much..
Amen! To Him above be the Glory!
Didnt look at it this way. Awesome. To God be all the Glory.
Indeed Kesha! To God alone be all the Glory! Amen.
Awesome articles and reply to the comments are great. Gained alot.
Amen to that Seyi! May God our Father, and Jesus our Lord alone be glorified.
Blessings to you Seyi!
Thank you so much for this post. Lately God has been pressing my heart that everything I need is in him. For years ive heard whispers in my spirit of how once the disciples received and were clothed with the Holy spirit, from there forward they lived the rest of there lives soley for the gospel and never paid attention to earthly desires, they also never turned away or slid back like they originally had when christ died. today i was listening to christian songs and i noticed how 80% of the songs would have a line reffering to God or Christ being the only thing they desire, seek or need. I thought to myself if we actually lived like what we sing what would God do through us. I believe God prompted my heart that if I change, God your all i need to God your all i WANT that i would find the kingdom. I often ponder needing God but always seem to find something I want along with him, even things that appear good like ministry position and influence but like you said if i get him he provides it all, I need not seek or desire those things. I was driving back today from work today and heard this in my mind. What if seek first isnt positional in a list of to do’s but is actually before you do anything else go after this. I’m reminded of Jesus commanding his disciples at the end of luke to tarry or wait in jerusalem to receive power from on high. Before they were to leave Jerusalem and preach they were to wait for this one thing. When Jesus cast out demons he mentioned that if he had done it by the finger of God then the kingdom had come upon them. I really believe the Kingdom is power and being fully clothed by the Holy spirit. Romans 14:17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy spirit. Im so thankful that God is helping me to believe he is all i need to seek so I can finally do it and find him he is a jealous God and will have no idols before him. I have this last analogy that I believe God put on my heart about seeking him first and how it’s intended tp be viewed. Seeking him first is as if you lost a child while out at the park. earlier that day you may have been pondering lunch or stuff you needed to get done for work but in this moment your priority is to find your child and you have purposed to do nothing else until they are found. God bless im excited to seek Him and him aolone and watch everything else in life work for my good
I can only praise God for how He works mightily in our hearts. The way He speaks to us and the way He confirms to us that it is Him who is speaking is a testament to the fact that He alone is God.
I thank you for your testimony, for you and I are on the same journey, even though I wrote this article. I am still on that journey. Realizing that the Kingdom was the only thing to seek opened my eyes like never before. And now, I am more convinced than ever that this is what Jesus was saying in this passage.
So many profound truths you have shared in your comment, but I will only highlight two or so: If only we lived what we sing in our songs! If only we focus on “He is all I want” vs “He is all I need” (wow). And if only we lived as if we had lost our child in the park!
Let us pray brother. For through prayers, God will help us live for Him, live like the disciples after Jesus’ departure, live like the children of the Kingdom should live.
Thank you Justin, and may the grace of God be with you, in the name of Jesus, the Christ!
I fail to see the difference. I believe the wording of this passage depends on the translation you are using. I have seen it translated both ways. I agree with your conclusion we should seek only Christ and then everything else will take it’s rightful place in our lives. But whether it says, “Seek first,” or “first seek,” both refer to seeking only Christ and all else will be taken care of. I think Matthew Henry Commentary puts it best: “The conclusion of the whole matter is, that it is the will and command of the Lord Jesus, that by daily prayers we may get strength to bear us up under our daily troubles, and to arm us against the temptations that attend them, and then let none of these things move us. Happy are those who take the Lord for their God, and make full proof of it by trusting themselves wholly to his wise disposal. Let thy Spirit convince us of sin in the want of this disposition, and take away the worldliness of our hearts.”
Thank you much for your comment although it is awfully much later than I am replying.
We are in perfect agreement with the main conclusion that Christ is really all we need. But the point that I was stressing out stems from how we practically endeavor to live this verse.
It does, in my opinion makes both a semantic and practical difference whether one says “seek first” or “first seek”, for – as I tried to argue in this blog – one suggests that other things can be sought, once we have sought Christ first.
Nevertheless, I thank you for this great comment. I wholeheartedly agree with Matthew Henry and I thank you for quoting him.
I thank God Almighty for the insight He gave you to write this article. I have been immensely blessed by the article and the comments. I pray for great grace to FIRST seek GOD, and on time too. Shalom!
Amen! Amen in Jesus’ Name!!
Amen to you words Iyobosa. May God grant you what you are asking of Him!
I am so blessed to have found this article. I was truly moved by both parts and am thankful of the revelation of God’s word of “seek ye first the kingdom”, which I haven’t always properly understood until now. I have always thought if I prayed about something and gave it to God that I was seeking Him first. But those things were usually “things” and now I understand to be focused on His will for my life and what He has purposed for me to do and He will add all those “other things” in my heart as He did for Solomon. It reminds me of the scripture “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” Psalm 37:4, which at first I didn’t understand either. But I realize now that these two scriptures are basically explaining the same thing…put God first and focus on what He has called you to do and our Heavenly Father who knows of all our needs and desires is sure to fulfill them and even more.
God bless you for allowing God to use you to expound on this scripture and may He continue to use you and give you more grace.🙏🏾
Amen Jane! I thank God for how He opens our eyes to better understand His Will. And I thank Him for your comment, as we His children have this desire to please Him in all things. God bless you abundantly!
Thank you so much for this wonderful post.it has really turned my life around, I didn’t even understand this verse the way you’ve interpreted it, may God continue to inspire you
Dear Rilindis! God bless you and thank you for these words of encouragement. I most sincerely apologize for the delay in my response but I am truly grateful to God for what He has done to you through this article. The Lord be with you in Jesus Name. Amen.
I thank the Lord for opening my eyes today. Now I understand the purpose of God about my life , it is not about this earthly things but His Kingdom. I thought seeking the Lord is when I pray about something. Now I want to understand this scripture of James 4:2-3 how it fits in Matt 6:33
As someone who has found the kingdom and got lifted up to the golden city out of the darkness of this world. And thus figured it out.
That not what it means.
Here is a quick over view.
1. Jesus means YHWH is salvation.
2. YHWH is a step by step process of transfiguration from human to angelic being to the combination of human and angel.
Y is the first part where you make you water spirit used to enter into heaven (John 3:5) H are the first cubes you go into.
W is how you look past infinity and bring into your body the angel you created in the lower heavens during the Y section. The second H is the angel coming down from the upper cube.
Very good insight and a cleverly studied use of words. In my mind I am still battling with the understanding of “seek ye first” and “first seek ye” which really is the acute one to go with but then I’d rather use the Luke going forward that omitted the two words “first” and “righteousness” which is still quite cool with me.
My biggest question is.. without self deception, it won’t be easy not to expect God’s blessings of abundance as prerequisite of “every other things to be added unto us”. Does having that in mind as reward for following Christ matter?
God bless you Innocent and thank you for both your comment and your question. Indeed, the Book of Luke has the particularity of omitting these two words, and as such it actually reinforces the view presented in this article. I do thank God for how He designed His Word so that we would understand the true meaning of His Will.
To your question, I would say that the mindset that would be coming from that self deception will subside and loose ground progressively as one matures in Christ.
This I believe is true for those who do let God perform His Will in them. So yes, we can self deceive, but if one continues with God, He is bound to get transformed, and come to the realization that the real abundance is actually in finding the Kingdom itself, the “everything other things to be added unto us” being in a very distant second place in terms of worth.
So deceived at first? Yes…but stay with Christ and those deceptions of the flesh will progressively vanish.
In Jesus Name!
Thank you for such a Powerful breaking of the bread. You have blessed me with the Word of God and brought about understanding. I will continue to follow God for a greater understanding of His will in my life. Thank you!
May God bless you greatly dear Denice! HE is Lord, there is none other, and He watches tenderly over you. He shall guide you on the way to His Kingdom for you are submitting to His Will, accepting His love for you.
Thank you for sharing this blog. It is a subject that I think this is an integral question for every believer who is serious about having a deeper walk with God.
For many years I have been studying this passage and as one reader states, I too would love …”to attain the miraculous, undefeated, victorious life.”
To help my understanding, I looked up the definition of “seek”, which is “to endeavor to obtain or reach; to inquire for; to explore.
In consideration of the matter that Jesus was addressing – worry – we are to make endeavoring to obtain, inquiring for, and exploring the kingdom our priority. In our discovery, we will find the things needed for everyday life as well.
Furthermore, above all, we will find the peace of God which transcends human understanding to keep our hearts and minds if ever those necessities get taken from us through war, fire, earthquake or any other disaster.
It is that kind of contentment that Paul talks of enjoying whether he was in a state of plenty or little.
That peace is possible only when we live in the realm of the kingdom and that is what Jesus impressed on us as being more important and preceding all else.
To me, whether we seek first or first seek, discovering the kingdom will cause us to be willing and happy to abandon everything that we have held as superior and important in order to obtain it; like finding treasure in a field (in the parable that Jesus shared in Matt 13:44).
It is my quest and God knows my heart and my commitment to cast aside ideologies and deceptions that have caused me to fixate on my life – what I will eat, and my body, what I will wear and where I will find shelter when my Heavenly Father already knows that I need these things. Duh!
The answer is in the Word, which I hear, but like the man who Jesus described in Matt 13:22, the worries of this life … choke it. That’s how it is with many of us, but we do have a responsibility to guard our hearts with all diligence…
That is why it is imperative that we do not conform to the world and its principles and dictates, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Let’s keep each other lifted up that we may indeed become like little children so that we can experience the kingdom of God.
Greetings Judith! Thank you for this great and detailed comment, which will help not just me but also those who in the future will stumble upon this article just as you did.
Our Lord is faithful, and He will always reward with His own piece and joy those who truly desire to please Him. Nothing this world can give can compare to what we receive when the Kingdom is our sole focus.
May He bless you abundantly!