Christians have a problem with priorities today like in no other time. There are so many things that are demanding our attention and many of them are good things. But none of us have unlimited time. We are all given the same 24 hours in a day. The difference comes down to how we choose to spend our time. Because we can’t do everything we have to make choices and make sacrifices according to what is the most important.
Our priorities should be God, family, and then church in that order. There’s obviously some need for clarification with these priorities though. The fact that God should be our biggest priority in our life shouldn’t be a surprise. In Matthew 22:36-38 Jesus explains our biggest priority.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.
Our first priority is to love God. There are many things that are entailed in this which includes worshipping God, praying and building a relationship with Him, and following His commands. There are a lot of Christians who can’t even get this first priority right.
When you love somebody, it’s pretty easy for others to see it. You want to spend all of your time with that person and do everything you can to please that person. If Christians’ love of God were judged based on these criteria, how many of us could be convicted by a jury today? I’m not talking about do people know you go to church. I’m talking about do people know that you love God. Do people see that you want to spend time with God and want to do everything you can to please God? How many can honestly say that God is first in their life if that is the criteria?
Jesus also establishes the next criteria in our life. Other people come after our love for God. In Matthew 19:29 Jesus tells His disciples about the sacrifices they would have to make to follow Him. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”
Also in Luke 9:61-62 it is written: “Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'”
Family is important but it is not to take precedence over God. This means that family functions should not pull us away from our worship of God. God instituted the family as the most important relationship we have on earth but He never intended it to have precedent over Him.
This is a fine line to walk and it is not easy. But we must carefully decide what is a need for our family and what is simply a comfort. We honor God by honoring our family. When there is a need within the family, it is right to attend to those needs, even if it means missing out on church. Our worship of God is not limited to the confines of the church and can be done at any place and time.
On the other hand, family should not be an excuse for not following God. Jesus dealt with people who wanted to follow Him but wanted to wait until it was more convenient for them and their family. Christianity is often not convenient for the family, particularly as it relates to those who are not Christians. I know of too many people who don’t come to church on Easter because they have to cook dinner for their family. My opinion is that if the family can’t come to church with you, let them wait another hour for their meal. God comes before the conveniences of the family.
Before I go much further on this, let me tie in our third priority. Our third priority is church. And this is even more difficult than the tightrope we walk with regard to God and family. God is obviously a big part of the church. Attending church honors God. Being an active participant honors God. But the church and God are not the same.
The church is an institution. This is not the way it began but it is what the church is now. The church is full of programs that are good but are not found in the New Testament. This doesn’t mean that they are bad, just that they are not a foundational part of the church and our worship of God. The church is built upon the worship of God, the study of God’s Word, and the fellowship of believers – Acts 2 makes this pretty clear.
We are always called to worship God. That is why church attendance is important because corporate worship can’t be replaced with anything else in life. But worship does not have to take place in a church and as a matter of fact shouldn’t always because worship is not an hour a week thing.
The individual church should not be held at the same level as God. The church is a living organism, it grows, changes, and sometimes dies. People fight for the church – or most often against change in the church – harder than they are willing to fight for their beliefs in God. People are more likely to become mad at the church because the worship style is becoming contemporary or the service times have changed than they become mad because the church has taken a liberal stance on a theological or social issue.
Christians should absolutely be devoted to their church or they should find a church that they can be devoted to. But this devotion should not come at the expense of the needs of their family. And Christians should not confuse showing up at church with serving God which is a constant thing rather than a once or twice a week occurance.