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Christians have a dilemma when it comes to choosing their priorities. If they spend a lot of time on work or with family, does that mean God isn’t at the top of their list? Common Christian wisdom says to prioritize something like:
Can you see a problem with this way of organizing priorities? What happens if you give 100% to God? Will there be anything left over for the rest of the list? What happens if you give 25% (42/168 hrs) to work and 30% (50/168) to sleep? That leaves only 45% for everything else.
A sequential (linear) list like this implies that the items at the bottom of the list are expendable. But all seven are important. There must be a way to prioritize everything.
Prioritize Yourself And Others
During an airplane emergency, when the oxygen masks drop, you are supposed to put a mask on you first so you can stay alive to help others. In that first instant, you are wise if you focus on yourself.
Jesus says to serve others and consider them more important (Philippians 2:3) but He also says to love others as you love yourself (Matthew 22:39). Usually, it is a given that people will care for themselves, so they need a reminder to think of others. Yet, sometimes people don’t even know how to care for themselves well, so they need a reminder to maintain good self-care.
John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”Luke 3:11 NLT
If you have more than you need (two shirts) give away what you have in excess. He isn’t saying you should give your last shirt away. He means don’t hoard extra things that others need. If you are blessed with extra, share it with others. A healthy heart practices self-care but doesn’t hoard.
Prioritize God In All You Do
The Bible says to put God’s spiritual kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). What’s a person to do? Are Christians supposed to put God, self, or others at the top of their priority lists? The Bible never contradicts itself. It might appear like it does because it is comprehensive. The Bible can correct your heart no matter if you are too self-focused, too self-neglectful, or too spiritually-focused.
Is it possible to be too spiritual? “He is so spiritually minded that he is no earthly good.” Isn’t this the same attitude that Jesus corrected in the Pharisees? They were so lawfully minded that they missed God’s desire to love people. God wants us to be motivated by His love. This means we must receive His love first.
We love because he first loved us.1 John 4:19 NIV
God doesn’t want anyone to be so consumed with Him that it isolates them from others. Neither does God want anyone to be so focused on the daily tasks of this life that they don’t have time for Him.
God and other priorities don’t have to be time-compartmentalized. Instead of time for God followed by time for others, what if you bring God into all that you do throughout your day? You can keep your mind fixed on God and check off everything on your to-do list. Here is an exercise that illustrates this principle.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV
Acknowledge God in all you do (Proverbs 3:6).
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.Colossians 3:2 NIV
You can honor God with your priorities as you see everything from the context of heaven. Your priorities on earth should be linked the God’s heavenly priorities. God is the glue that holds all the important stuff together as you go about your day. When you let God be involved, He has a way of helping you complete the important priorities. Keep Him in mind no matter what you are trying to do.
Matt Pavlik is a licensed professional clinical counselor who wants to see each individual restored to their true identity. He has more than 20 years of experience counseling individuals and couples at his Christian counseling practice, New Reflections Counseling. Matt and Georgette have been married since 1999 and live with their four children in Centerville, Ohio.