Each New Year,
people make resolutions which they hope will bring more sense and order to
their lives.As resolutions are made,
please consider this article by Wayne Jackson regarding
Christian Priorities. ***************************************************************************************************
One of the most
demanding and frequently ignored admonitions from Jesus Christ is found in his
renowned Sermon on the Mount: “You are to seek first the kingdom of God and his
righteousness, and all of these things [basic needs] will be added to you”
(Matthew 6:33). This is one of the most challenging, and yet neglected,
mandates of Christ—even by many who profess to be his loyal followers.
consideration, of course, is the identity of the one making this demand.
Does he have the right to issue such a rigorous obligation? If this is not
understood, nothing productive will ever result. The following factors must be
appreciated: Christ is your Creator (John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:3), he is your
Savior (Matthew 1:21), and he has been granted authority over you (John 17:2;
Matthew 28:18). He thus has the right to command you and expect your obedience.
If you do not acknowledge this truth, there is no way you can legitimately
claim to be his disciple. Additionally, there are the following constituent
elements of the command.
The verb “seek” (zeteo
– 117 times in the New Testament) is a verb in the command mood, and it
stresses continuous activity. The word embraces several thoughts, such as
“looking for,” “investigating,” “striving to obtain.” It embodies the idea of
strenuous effort. Christians are not to prioritize their own interests, but
those of their Lord foremost (Philippians 2:21).
This adjective is
employed adverbially to emphasize precedence. It signifies degree, as: “in the
first place," “above all,” "especially.” It is the very opposite of
the disposition of the man who sought to follow Christ, but said: “*[F]irst*,
let me go and bury my father” (Matthew 8:21). Jesus admonished the man; not
because the man cared for his father, but because he did not appreciate the preeminence
of his Lord. Legions are of the same caliber.
“kingdom of God,” in the sense of this context, is the “reign” of God in your
life. Is he enthroned in your heart so that your entire existence is governed
by his rule? The Creator of the universe will not be a mere appendage in your
life. He is not a sometimes, weekend, casual point of interest.
“righteousness” signifies living the way God wants you to; it is similar to
Jesus’ proclamation to John the Baptist at the time of his baptism: “[I]t
becomes us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). One scholar has
expressed the matter like this: “Righteousness is seen as God’s demand upon
man. Righteousness refers to proper conduct before God.” The term assumes
Jehovah’s sovereignty over man, and his perfect wisdom in dictating the
appropriate way for people to live.
used of various acts of worship, such as giving, praying, or in the exercise of
self-discipline—as in the case of fasting (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16). Obedience
always should be to honor God, and not to solicit the attention or admiration
of others (6:1). Those who engage in performance worship should give heed to
this. Jesus taught his disciples that their righteousness must exceed that of
the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20)—whose religion focused upon externals
and neglected internals (Matthew 23:23). Too many today believe if your heart
is right, it doesn’t make any difference what you do. Others go through
superficial acts while their dispositions are rotten. Righteousness involves
both attitude and action.
It is a fact
beyond dispute that it is easier to theorize about doing right than to practice
it with passion. Too, it is very difficult to be honest—even with ourselves—in
the matter of adjusting our priorities. This is because conflicts of interest
arise that require the exercise of judgment, and our judgments don’t always
agree with one another. At times we are conflicted even within ourselves.
are required to assemble on the Lord’s day (Revelation 1:10) for the purpose of
worship and edification (Acts 20:7ff). Concerning the communion supper, for
instance, the Lord commanded: “This do . . .” (Luke 22:19), and Paul’s charge
to the Corinthians was prefaced with: “As I gave order . . . so also you are to
do” (1 Corinthians 16:1-2). Normally, this is what faithful people do. This is
implementing the righteousness of God, and devoted children of God make an
earnest effort to be consistent in their worship.
However, what if a
mother has a sick child who needs medical care? Is there not a “motherly
righteousness” that, in this temporary instance, takes precedence over a
worship assembly? No one in his right mind would dispute this.
Or consider this
situation: Suppose a Christian physician is called to the hospital on Sunday
morning to do emergency surgery to help save a person’s life? Would a faithful
disciple be faulted for having to miss a service in such an instance? Who would
so contend? No reasonable person. Motive plays a huge part in many of
How would this
parallel the person who consistently and whimsically forsakes services for the
most trivial matters—a birthday party, sports events, or “I need some extra
rest for Monday”? How about missing Christian worship to entertain relatives,
or to attend a denominational church with a friend? Such rationalizations do
not pass the credibility test.
He who “knows the
hearts of all men” (Acts 1:24) knows precisely how serious we are about serving
God. A facade of religiosity and “spiritual strut” does not pass muster with
the Lord. And quite frankly, it is perfectly transparent to many others as