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Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. - Mt 6:31-33 (ESV)

The context shows that the words point to the “seeking” of prayer, rather than of act, though the latter meaning is, of course, not excluded. What is thus to be sought is “the kingdom of God”... the higher spiritual life in its completeness, for ourselves and for others; and with it we are to seek “His righteousness,” that which, being perfect beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, must be His gift to us, and therefore to be sought in prayer. One who seeks for this may well be content to leave all else in his Father’s hands. Even without his asking “they shall be added unto him” in such measure as is best for him. - Ellicott

Ellicott comments that to seek means to pray first and foremost, rather than to act or do good works (Luke 12:33). He mentions that it is implied in the context, which I assume is the preceding section on prayer and perhaps other scripture on how to combat worry and anxiousness with prayer (Phil 4:6).

Can anyone provide support for or against Ellicott?

  • Seeking does not imply just prayer, but will include it. Seeking the kingdom of God is the same as surrendering your life's daily affairs to be ruled by the king, Jesus. For instance, what does He want you to do about worrying and leaving things in God's hands? – Steve Apr 1 '17 at 15:37
  • @Steve - can you expound upon that with this passage and/or its context? – Frank H. Apr 4 '17 at 13:12
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Matthew 6:33 is a conclusion drawn from the previous teachings in the chapter. Earlier in 6:25 Jesus said, "Therefore I say to you do not worry 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 clothing?" This leads the train of thought expressed in 6:26-31 that God's family is well cared for by the Father, and when we don't acknowledge this, then we worry about our earthly needs. Since these needs are the Father's responsibility, we can be free of the burden of anxiety of getting them and instead focus on what's spiritually important.

6:32 says, "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." Just like the "seek" in this case is not about prayer, so the "seek" in 6:33 is not about prayer. The seek in 6:32 is being used in a general sense, emphasizing that we place these needful things in a high priority, and engage our thoughts, plans, longings, emotions, activity, and human contacts into getting these things.

6:33 tells us to pour all that activity into seeking the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God implies a king and his subjects. So our "first" priority as subjects of Jesus is to pour all of our efforts into knowing the King, and learning to obey Him. We learn to place all that we are and have under His rule: our heart, mind, body, plans, speech, values, possessions, finances -- nothing is left out. We seek this in the sense that we aim our resources, internal and external, to obtain this end. We seek because as sinners the way of doing this is hidden to us and we must unlearn old practices and priorities to learn this new way of faith that works through love.

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It means more than simply to pray, but rather to direct our entire being toward spiritual and not worldly things.

The 19th Russian monk and theologian Theophan the Recluse comments:

The Lord said to the man who asked Him to divide between him and his brother, Who made Me a judge or a divider over you? (Luke 12:14). Later He added: Take no thought (Luke 12:22) about what to eat and drink, or what to wear. Earlier He taught: Let the dead bury their dead (Luke 9:60). Another time he suggested that it is better not to marry (cf. Matthew 19:10-11). This means that the turning aside of the attention and heart from everything worldly, as well as freedom from vanity and worldly bonds, make up one of the characteristics of the Christian spirit. The fact that the Lord blesses marriage and supports its indissolubility, which effectually renews the commandment regarding the relationship between parents and children and attaches significance to civic authorities and order, does not efface this characteristic and does not give Christians the right to avoid preserving it and cherishing it in their hearts. Compare both things and you will see that you have a duty to keep your heart unworldly amidst the worldly order of things. How can you do this? Resolve it yourself in your own life; in this is all practical wisdom. The Lord guides you toward resolving this with the following rule: Seek ye first the Kingdom of God. Direct all your concern toward having God reign in you, and everything worldly will lose its binding and burdensome spell over you. Then you will conduct your affairs outwardly, but inwardly your heart will be possessed by something else. But, if on account of this, the resolution arises to cut off even this outward relationship to worldly things, it will not be a loss for you. You will come closer to the goal which faith in Christ will give you.

Thoughts for Each Day of the Year (tr. St. Herman Press, 2010), p. 249

  • Can you provide support using the context? – Frank H. Jan 28 '17 at 15:06
  • I will write an answer for you. – Steve Apr 4 '17 at 13:28

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