Monday, March 12, 2018

Priorities and abundant life ............. Parables 714

May 1, 2001

Both the business world and personal self-help guides tell us we must evaluate or order our priorities but only in the last few decades has the word ‘priority’ been used in the plural. In the same way ‘unique’ expresses one of a kind, priority is a singular word.

If a person can only have one priority and someone gave us a ‘priority quiz,’ what would be at the top of the list? The boss says your job. The spouse says your family. The halls of learning say your education. The banks say your money. The Jones’ look at your house or car. Most people say ‘me’ putting ‘old number one’ in first place. The Bible consistently exhorts us to put God first. The first of the Ten Commandments says: “I am the Lord your God . . . you shall have no other gods before me.”

I know what another priority might look like. Those who put their work first spend up to twenty hours a day doing, thinking, breathing their job. Those who put their family first turn down anything that conflicts with family responsibilities and commitments.

But what does putting God first look like? Does that mean being in church two times on Sunday and at least twice more during the week? Does it mean putting 90% of your income in the offering plate? Does it mean leaving your home and family to serve God on the mission field? If He is first, do we settle for an old Chevy and Value Village clothes?

Scripture supports some of those ideas but other passages shoot them down. For one thing, God is not interested in ‘religious exercises’ done without love for Him. He berated Old Testament Israel for their empty worship and sacrifices because their hearts were far from Him. The New Testament also warns against a form of religion. Jesus talked about those who piously prayed on street corners or who gave money but did it only “be seen of men.” These religious practices were not pleasing to God.

A better example of what it means to put God first comes from Jesus’ sermon on the mount in the New Testament book of Matthew. Near the end of chapter six, He says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness . . .”

The first thing in our lives, our priority, is that we seek, discover and explore the things of God. He wants us to find and practice His goodness (as opposed to our own) all our lives. Jesus adds that “. . . all these things will be added” meaning the food, clothing and other necessities that tend occupy far too much of our focus.

Yes, God also asks that we spend time with His people. He also asks that we be generous regarding the financial needs of others. He may even ask us to become missionaries in some far-flung place, but if the priority is right, we will not be afraid of the conditions that fall under it.

God, I know that many people are afraid of putting You first. They are afraid they will no longer enjoy life or be able to do anything meaningful. What they do not realize is that You are the author of joy and the only one who can bestow true and lasting significance. Help each of us seek You and Your kingdom. Help us discover that when You are our priority, we will have the richest and most significant life possible.

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