Understanding the Deep Meaning of Matthew 6:33
When people say, "Seek ye first" they are reciting only a small portion of Matthew 6:33. The scripture has a very deep meaning when it is considered in its entirety along with the surrounding verses.
In order for the verse to be understood, one should know that Matthew 6 is part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount that includes Matthew Chapters 5, 6, and 7. Those chapters include the teachings of Jesus at the beginning of His ministry soon after He was baptized by John the Baptist.
"But Seek Ye First"
To merely quote, "Seek ye first" is to minimize the meaning of the entire verse and passage of which those three words are such a small part. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" is the complete verse.
Matthew 6:33 begins with the conjunction "but." That lets us know it is not a stand-alone verse. It is the continuation of a conversation that started much earlier. The conjunction joins Matthew 6:33 to verses that start as early as Matthew 6:25 and ends with Matthew 6:34 which goes one verse beyond the short portion that is quoted.
To seek something is to earnestly look for it with the expectation of finding it. It is unfortunate that some people often do not seek God first. They seek everything else before they seek God. Jeremiah 29:13 says, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."
The word "seek" in Matthew 6:33 is a present imperative verb that means one is to pursue something and keep on pursuing it without stopping.
Matthew 6:33 Discussion
There is a very important discussion that starts in Matthew 6:25-34 that deals with trusting God. Reasons are given not to worry about basic human needs for the body. Jesus teaches that we should not worry about what we will eat, what we will drink and what we will wear.
Starting with Verse 25, "Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"
In Verses 26-30, Matthew gives two examples of smaller things that don't worry about their needs because God takes care of them. The birds of the air don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet God supplies for their daily needs. The lilies of the field do not toil or spin, but God takes care of them. In fact, their clothes are much better than the wealthy Solomon wears.
Then in Matthew 6:33, there is an alternative to worrying about our needs. "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." In other words, we should depend on God for our provisions instead of worrying about how we will obtain them. Know that "all these things" refer to eating, drinking and wearing clothes. When we depend on God, we are assured to have our basic human needs met.
Matthew 6:34 gives the conclusion to the entire conversation. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."
Why We Should Seek First the Kingdom of God
The kingdom of God is the sovereignty of God and His rule over all creation. We should seek first that kingdom so we can be part of all that God has to offer when we depend on Him for everything instead of relying on others or ourselves.
Jesus told His followers not to worry about provisions such as food, drink or clothing. That's because God would provide their needs. If disciples of Christ would rely on the Kingdom of God first, then their material needs would follow without the need to worry or become anxious.
There are at least four major takeaways from the passage that includes Matthew 6:33.
According to Matthew 6:25, we are told not to worry about food, drink, or clothes.
According to Matthew 6:26-30, Jesus tells us to consider the birds and the lilies of the field who don't even work for their basic needs because God provides for them.
An invitation is given in Matthew 6:33 to put God first and He will meet all our needs.
Matthew 6:34 gives final advice: "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."