What does it mean to “seek first the Kingdom of God”?

My son recently had a math test at school. He burned his way through it, acing every question, only to find out after the fact that it was the wrong test. It was a test for 2 grades below his. He went from, elation to devastation in one horrid moment of realization. Ever had a moment where you went from movie star to misfit toy in one impossible second?

The Bible contains many prescribed and prohibited behaviors. Everyone knows that. There are big lists of do’s and don’ts. But—as an exercise—if we restrict ourselves momentarily to the teachings of Jesus, it’s surprising how few behaviors he actually endorses.

You cannot separate Jesus from his kingdom. Seeking the Kingdom means seeking Jesus. But what if you’ve already found him? Then I think it’s equally worth noting that you can’t separate the way Jesus lived from who Jesus was. His actions revealed his identity. He was, in effect, the first citizen of the Kingdom of God.

Don’t get me wrong—Jesus teaches a lot, and he says a lot. But much of it is about our hearts and our allegiance. Even his commands—”love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22.37-39)—are abstract. I mean, we get what he means, but he’s not terribly specific. And when people ask him for explanation, he usually responds with stories, to illustrate the kind of person he wants us to become.

There are very few concrete behaviors Jesus bothers to mention.

This tells us two things:

First, Christ is more interested in us growing than conforming. He wants us to develop into fully human beings, capable of attending to God’s Spirit and being nuanced followers of Christ and his kingdom.

Second, it means that there are some things Christ considers so important he’s unwilling to wait for us to figure it out on our own.

A synthesis of Jesus’ teachings reveals his “to do” list for Christians. Here’s my question: if you were to honestly evaluate your life, would you find out you’re acing the wrong test? Is it possible you’ve felt like an A+ Christian, only to now realize you’re a C- follower of Jesus?

Don’t take that as a prompt for guilt. Take it as a challenge.


A To Do List for Christians

With Yourself

Arrest wayward sexual fantasies (Mt. 5.28)

Keep your charity secret (Mt. 6.4)

If single, practice abstinence (Mk. 7.20-23)

Remember: eating is sacred (Lk. 22.19-20)

With Others

Refuse to take revenge (Mt. 5.38-39)

Settle out of court (Mt. 18.15-18)

Stand by your words (Mt. 5.37)

Don’t oppose other Christians (Mk. 9.38-41)

Protect the little children (Mt. 18.6)

Challenge judgment and hypocrisy (Mt. 5.38-39; 7.5)

Show hospitality to outcasts (Lk. 14.12-14)

Practice blessing your enemies (Mt. 5.44)

Forgive before you worship (Mk. 11.25)

Travel and disciple others (Mk. 16.15)

Give generously and sacrificially (Lk. 6.30; Mk. 12.41-44)

Concede to others’ preferences (Mt. 20.26-27)

Be faithful in marriage (Mt. 19.6)

With Prayer

Forgo meals to pray (Mt. 6.16)

Continue praying despite despair (Lk. 18.1-8)

Repent of your sins (Mt. 3.2)

Pray for miraculous power (Lk. 11.9-13)

Pray the Lord’s prayer (Mt. 6.9-13)