We often use the cliche in the church: “We must put first things first” regarding spiritual priorities. The sentiment of such a statement is scriptural, but the application of such a statement is difficult. I do not believe Jesus ever intended, through His teachings, to relay otherwise. Once, He came across a man who was rich, young, and a ruler. This man appeared to be a master of his priorities, for he had kept the commands of God from his youth (c.f., Matthew 19:20). Those who have committed youthful indiscretions understand the difficulty of such prioritizing. Jesus told this man he still lacked one thing in Matthew 19:21, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Yes, according to Christ, there was a price of sacrifice to follow Him. In the case of the Rich Young Ruler, it was materialism. Yet, in this simple statement, Jesus was asking and tasking this rich young ruler to continue setting spiritual priorities. Those who set spiritual priorities observe the basic truth that not all tasks are created equal, and not all items on our to-do list are of equal importance. Some tasks are of higher priority than others. Christ has asked us to do these tasks of higher priority in our time on this Earth. Above all, we must provide responsible and spiritual balance in our time for worship, work, and family.
For a moment, I want to present to you some priorities I have observed in the church:
- We arrive early at the game but late for worship.
- We place great emphasis on our children reading their schoolbooks but little priority on our children reading the Bible.
- We create time for family movie night but cannot find time for family bible time.
- We dismiss their excuses to miss school, but we cater to their excuses to miss Sunday school.
- We attend work even when we are ill but will not attend worship with the same illness.
- We prefer the in-game experience in sporting events but favor the virtual experience in worship services.
- We would never schedule a vacation or retreat during the calendar school year. Still, we would not hesitate to schedule a vacation during a gospel meeting or lectureship that has been on the calendar for over a year.
- We know our child’s picture day is two months away, but we cannot recall if any church activities are taking place this month.
- We wish to be active in our community and the schools but have no desire to be active in the Lord’s church.
- We study our children’s schoolwork but pay no attention to the work our child brings home from bible class.
With priorities such as this, why do we wonder why our child chooses worldliness over godliness? Notice that I began each priority with “we.” This was purposeful. Spiritual priorities are set collectively and actively involve a family on the same spiritual page. If you are to “put first things first,” you must first put family unity first. If you can cultivate spiritual unity in your family, it will lead to effective spiritual priorities. Remember, if your child continuously sees you choose the flesh over the spiritual, we ought not to be surprised when they become obsessed with the flesh as adults. After all, it has been your priority all their life.