The poster hung on my brother’s bedroom wall. In it, brilliant white buildings with blue domed roofs perched on a craggy hillside. Below them, the deep blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea sparkled under the bright sky. A large title at the bottom read “Santorini, Greece.” I would gaze at the poster and think, someday, I’m going to visit that place.
The years have come and gone, and although I’ve never been, I still hope to visit Santorini … someday. The list of trips I’d like to take has only grown with age, but the same two things hold me back: time and money. With my firstborn preparing to leave for college in two years, taking this trip probably isn’t the wisest use of our resources right now. Maybe you can relate. It seems the responsibilities of our daily lives often keep us from turning our dreams into realities.
I think sometimes that’s how we view Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount too. They sound lofty and appealing, but not particularly practical: “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33, NIV)
Jesus urges us to structure our priorities so that seeking God’s kingdom and His righteousness are of utmost importance. This is for our benefit and His glory. It sounds reassuring to hear God knows our daily practical needs, but what does it look like to seek His kingdom first? Ironically, I think it has to do with the same two things: time and money.
Seeking God’s kingdom first includes short and long term decisions about how we spend our time. To evaluate the short term, think back on the last 3-5 days and consider the following: How many times did you read your Bible, pray or acknowledge God first thing in the morning? We prioritize what we value most, so if you had time to shower, drink a cup of coffee, read your e-mail or check the news before leaving home, then it’s likely you had the time to spend a few minutes with God. It’s a matter of choices. If you want to make daily time with Him a higher priority, maybe it’s time to pray and ask Him to show you how.
We also make longer-term decisions about how we invest our time, whether that is in a paid job, a volunteer position, a service opportunity or our free time. Do you pray and seek God’s will before making decisions? Do you invite Him to show you how to use your time to bless others and to honor Him? This is another simple but profound way to align your priorities to His.
Seeking God’s kingdom first means including Him in your day and asking for His wisdom about how you spend your time. Try a simple prayer like this first thing in the morning: “God, let my priorities match with Yours today. Show me where you want to expand Your kingdom and what part You want me to play in that. Use me to bless others and to honor You today.”
How, exactly, do we seek God’s kingdom first with our finances? Is there a realistic way to apply Jesus’ teaching? “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21, NIV)
When our priorities align with God’s, we see money as a tool, not a source of security. God entrusts us with financial resources that provide for our needs. However, He also gives us opportunities to use them for His kingdom– whether that is supporting ministries, charities or specific people. When we are overly focused on our own comfort or security, we become self-centered and blind to the ways our material resources could further God’s kingdom.
If trusting God with finances is a struggle for you, pray and admit that to Him. Then, the next time you pay bills, let the first check you write be to your church or another ministry that spreads God’s kingdom. Show Him that you trust Him to meet your practical needs and that you want to seek His kingdom first. This intentional act will change your perspective on finances and give Him new opportunities to work in your life.
The only treasure that is 100% trustworthy is found in God’s kingdom. Our pursuit of Jesus enables us to align our priorities with His in ways that are both lofty and practical. It opens doors for Him to use our time and finances for greater impact and lets us discover the value of true treasure found only in Him.
Santorini will have to wait for now. In the meantime, I can experience the beauty of God’s kingdom every day right where I am.
Click on the link and make Lauren Daigle’s song “First” your prayer today.