As stated previously, the greatest single recorded commandment Jesus Christ gave to the Church is to “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” One basis for claiming this as the “greatest” commandment is that the word “first” is the Greek word protos, essentially meaning “foremost” or “first” in time, in importance, in priority. It could be translated “before and/or above” anything else.
With a bit more context to this statement, Jesus said: “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. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
The meaning is essentially that a son or daughter of God should chiefly, and ultimately only be concerned with furthering the Kingdom of their Father (Kingdom of God) and a right, correct, proper relation to Him (His righteousness), and their Father will take care of everything else as He sees fit, including their daily needs such as food and clothing, as he knows these needs full-well. The crux of the matter is what the Kingdom of God IS and what it means to seek His righteousness. If this is what a disciple of Jesus Christ is to be occupied with foremost of everything, then we MUST understand what he was saying. In upcoming posts I plan to examine each of these things in greater detail.
Religion is a system or set of works and/or doctrines which is based on fear, obligation, or a desire for reward. It essentially serves as a mask for SELF gratification and SELF preservation. It is not something that glorifies the Father. Religion has a “lens” that it uses to filter everything that it touches and spreads. As a result, religion has completely distorted and thus destroyed the message of Jesus Christ and the original apostles. It also keeps men today bound, or “in a box” of fixed rules and understandings. It opposes originality, outside or new influences, and creativity. It thus prevents those within it from genuinely hearing and receiving unfiltered Truth, which may be outside of religion’s boundaries. A lens is something that distorts light and magnifies, minimizes, or otherwise changes the actual image that the light is conveying to the eyes. Spiritually speaking, when what is being conveyed is pure and right, this is disastrous.
The lens of religion could best be called “fear.” Fear of hell and judgment, primarily. When everything is filtered through a lens of “fear,” then all commandments, exhortations, and teachings – whether from scripture, godly men or even the Spirit of God directly – are distorted into a core message of self improvement or behavior management. “Seek first the kingdom” becomes “Get as many people to profess conversion to Christianity (the “set” of rules and doctrines) as you can.” “…And His righteousness” becomes “and be sure you are doing all the other good things and not doing any bad things.” All of this is motivated by fear and a desire to make SELF look good enough for God. But, without the filter and chains of religion, (both of which are removed in Christ), one can see this isn’t at all what Jesus was saying, and the motive of fear is seen as baseless and crude at best.
This needs to be clear: The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Christianity are not the same thing. They are not interchangeable. Christianity is a religion, and Jesus Christ feels towards religion the same as he ever did – he completely despises it. It’s well known in most Christian circles that Jesus delivered his most scathing rhetoric, warnings, and judgments to and against the religious folks of his day, particularly the leadership. In scripture, these religious folks are variously referred to as pharisees, sadducees, lawyers, scribes, chief priests, etc. These were the equivalent of the “hyper-religious” today: the zealous bible-school graduates, the zealous doctrinal defenders, the biblical scholars, the leaders of ministries and so-called churches, the pious and prideful, etc. Jesus didn’t fault anyone for a position they held, but for their hypocrisy, blindness, hard-heartedness, pride, lack of discernment, lack of love, and unwillingness to REPENT, i.e. change their way of thinking and understanding (more on repentance soon as well – it’s a vital and misunderstood element). The fact they led others astray from God by putting them under the same bondages they were under literally infuriated Jesus Christ, and it still does. Pharisees, as a type, exist today among those who know and relate to God based on religion, that is, “good” works and doctrines, which serves to mask their pride and/or fear.
The primary point is this: doing good things isn’t what endears one to God. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law (essentially meaning completed and ended it), at the cross he took away the ordinances of law that were against us, and he has freed us from ALL religious bondage, regulations and fear. So God isn’t interested in religious good works anymore, nor is He interested in people being “sorry” for wrongdoing. These things are a moot point, they’re taken care of already. The Kingdom of God has nothing to do with good behavior or even a belief in God. It has nothing to do with Christianity. It has everything to do with becoming sons and daughters who think like their Father, who honor Him and who further His kingdom, which is becoming their kingdom and which they will inherit. Religion, including Christianity, will take you BACKWARDS in a quest for true knowledge of God and true sonship.