Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keeping Priorities Straight

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Those of you who know me know that I am organizationally challenged.  Actually, that last sentence is probably an understatement.  But when I say that I am organizationally challenged, it only involves the physical things in life (messy offices, clean houses, meeting deadlines, etc...).  However, in the area of spiritual matters, I am very organized because God is very organized.

Within the Scriptures, God has given us several lists on the right order our priorities are to take.  I find this comforting because I am a guy and guys tend to want things spelled out for them.  Give me a task and I can complete it with ease.  Expect me to do a task, hint at it overtly, but never tell me directly...you've only got about a 10% chance of it happening (that number is probably high).

Because God is so organized, I have come up with a list based upon the Scriptures on how our lives are supposed to look.

1.  Our relationship with God
2.  Our relationship with our husband/wife
3.  Our relationship with our children
4.  Our provision for our family
5.  Our ministry to others

This list is based off of the following Scriptures:  Mark 12:28-31, Ephesians 5:21-33, 1 Timothy 3:1-5, 1 Timothy 5:8.

I have found that whenever one of these priorities is elevated improperly, it messes with everything it displaces.  For example, when our provision (our work) becomes more important than any of our relationships then the list looks like this.

4.  Our provision for our family
1.  Our relationship with God
2.  Our relationship with our husband/wife
3.  Our relationship with our children
5.  Our ministry to others

Notice how everything on the list is negatively affected because of this.  I am sure you can think of families who have been hurt because the idea of work or the false impression that provision (which is biblical) includes having all the best stuff (which isn't biblical at all).  The lie that is perpetuated is that a man or woman is loving their family by working all the time (not out of necessity) and spending no time with their family at the very expense of that family they are supposed to love.  You may notice that "our ministry to others" wasn't displaced on the list.  However, I have found that when problems with our relationships with God and family take place, it directly impacts any ministry we are able to effectively do for others.

Now being organized in spiritual matters and being good at them are two different things.  While I love how simple this list is, keeping this list in the right order is a constant challenge.  Because I am a pastor, my #4 & #5 are combined and I do them because of my love for God, which means I have a tendency to mix up #1 with #4 & #5 at the neglect of #2 & #3. 

And then there is the list itself.  It can become a checklist rather than motivated through a relationship based on love.  That's what happened to the Ephesian believers that Jesus talked to in Revelation (see Rev. 2:1-7).  We can do the same thing with all of our relationships.  We can so easily forget that our love is to proceed our task that we count our task as our love.

That last statement may be hard to grasp so let me give you an example. 

A husband who is providing for his wife, does the dishes for his wife, goes out with his wife every week on Friday, yet sees these things as things that he has to do to sustain his marriage, has not loved his wife because the motivation is on the task being used as duck tape for their relationship.  This same husband could blow up at his spouse and name all of this list as evidence of his love, feeling justified, but completely missing the point.

Consider the words of Jesus found in John 14:15-24.  Four times Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey my commands" (3 times positively, once negatively).  The action is motivated by love.  This is how God can say that His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3).  It is never a burden to do something for someone you love.  (Don't make the mistake of reading into that that it is never hard.  We do plenty of hard things, but those "hard" things we deem worth it are often motivated by love.)

If that same husband mentioned above, did all the same things for his wife, but the motivation was love, he wouldn't have to keep a list of what he has done or worry about what he may have missed.

In God's economy, love always proceeds tasks.  I believe that it is intentional that God places at the top of His list relationships fueled by love before any important tasks.  It is a constant reminder to us that no important work for Him can be done without love.  Love is the factor that makes us desire to keep this list straight, while at the same time, preventing us from becoming legalistic about it.

My prayer for both you and I is that we will love well today and keep our priorities straight.

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