online book group: What’s the Least I Can Believe, chapter 12

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Each of the chapters about what Christians actually believe focuses on Jesus–grace, priorities, teachings, salvation, etc. Monday we talked about who Jesus is, and today we have the related question of where Jesus asks us to put our attention. Recalling the affirmation “Jesus Christ is Lord” will help us as we seek to keep our priorities in line with following Christ…

Chapter 12: Jesus’ Priority

Many of us struggle with our priorities–where do our resources (attention, energy, time, money) go first, second, third, not at all…? It’s common, at least in the US, for us to claim some things as a priority with our words, but for our actions to demonstrate a different set of priorities. For instance, I don’t think I know anyone who would not list their family among their top priorities. But I also know a LOT of people who spend the majority of their time away from their families. Some will say that they’re away from their families in order to provide for them, and that may be–but the question of “provide what?” is an open one. This chapter has several stories of families that sought good and important jobs that would make a lot of money in order to provide a big house, a summer home, a cushy bank account….but at the expense of actually being together as a family. So what is that family’s priority–family, or money, or work, or a big house?

Most questions posed to Jesus were questions of priorities. They may not have been worded that way, but that’s what they are. When our priorities are out of order, we are engaging in idolatry–we are claiming that something other than following God’s will is most important in our lives. This is not an easy thing to talk about, but it’s a necessary topic, so here we go…

“What is most important?” asks the lawyer/religious leader/rich man/young ruler (depending on which gospel you’re reading). What do you have to do as a child of God, in order to live the life God wants for you? Jesus answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength…love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets, Jesus says.

So–our first priority is to love God with everything we are and everything we have–with our intellect, our bodies, our emotions, our spirits, our will, our lives. Our second priority is the flip side of the same coin–to love those made in the image of God (that would be everyone). How do we express those priorities?

I know I’m not the only one to have said this (in part because it was said to me at some point a long time ago, but I can’t remember by whom). What we SAY our priorities are almost doesn’t matter. Instead of talking about them, show me your calendar and your checkbook, and I’ll be able to see your priorities plain as day. Where do you spend your time? With whom do you spend your time? What do you spend that time doing? Where do your precious resources go?

Do we spend our time building relationships between us and God, between us and our neighbor (even when our neighbor is not the person next door in our fashionable neighborhood)? Do we spend our resources building up the kingdom of God? Or do our checkbooks and calendars reveal very different priorities?

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3 responses »

  1. Excellent summary of the chapter concerning priorities. That admonition to look at your calendar and checkbook (perhaps credit card statement, too) and see what your priorities truly are ought to hit each of us hard! My wife and I try to consciously think about where our resources of time and money go to further God’s kingdom on earth. I’m afraid, like Oskar Schindler, we too often can say, “We didn’t do enough. We could have done more.”

  2. It is easy to make the kingdom of God a priority when it is your full time job to do just that. But for the rest, missing dinner is not such a bad thing if it means your kids will have college and healthcare. Besides, the kingdom work is everywhere, including (and especially at) the office.

    • It seems like it would be easier to make the kingdom of God a priority if that’s your job, but the reality is that lots of things intrude just like in anyone else’s life, and it’s just as possible to “work for God” (via the church, a non-profit, volunteerism, etc) and neglect our other priorities–prime example: preacher’s kids stories of never seeing their dads because they were more married to the church. It’s true that kingdom work is everywhere. The question is one of Priorities–which at its root is a question about focus. Mary and Martha could have both been doing kingdom work, but Martha’s focus was distracted and so she was just doing busywork, however much that busywork provided for the people who needed to eat. SO: where do our priorities lie? And how do we live them out? Where is our attention–on doing what God asks of us, or on doing a job we think we have to do in order to provide what we think we have to provide? At issue is not just who is in control (hint: it’s not us, however much we think of ourselves as providers), it’s also about vision. If we’re doing kingdom work at the office, great–that’s what we’re supposed to do, and I hope that’s what we’re doing. But remember that when it becomes OUR work, it’s just as much a distraction as Martha’s.

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