As we observed in part one of this post, God Himself ranks our priorities. We see the framework of ordering our lives in Matthew 22:37 through Matthew 22:40 where Jesus said,
"...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."
Given that Jesus said with all our heart, mind and soul, it stands to reason that God's framework doesn't apply to only life's overall priorities but to each area, action, project, subproject, task etc.
The order Jesus gives shows that our first priority is our relationship and fellowship with God. Our relationship with neighbor comes second.
Note that Jesus uses the word love. "Thou shalt LOVE the Lord THY God..." You can't love God for someone else nor can someone else love God for you; nor is it a group effort as far as this commandment is concerned. Your love is your love. So it seems that this would speak of your own relationship and fellowship with God, it's not a reference to a dedication to your ministry. Ministry, being directed toward others in service to God would seem to fall into the neighbor category. Clearly, one's love for God is demonstrated by obedience, but we are talking about how we order those acts of obedience: first you and God and second your relationship and works for others.
The blurring of these distinctions seems to be a very common area where ministers subject their families to great neglect and unnecessary suffering in the ministry. The minister often equates his vocation and calling with his relationship with God and his duty to put God first. The ones closest to him are often sacrificed in the name of being dedicated to his calling. I believe this neglect is often due in part to a mis-ordering of God's priorities. It's your relationship with God first, then neighbor. We find in Acts 1:8 that ministry starts close by and then move outward. Certainly, our closest neighbor is our spouse and children. So, love your neighbor must begin at home.
From the structure revealed in the command of Jesus to love God completely and love your neighbor as yourself, I believe we get the following order of priorities:
1. God - Your God-relationship, worship and devotion
2. Neighbors (from closest to farthest: Acts 1:8, 1 Tim 5:8)
Here are some suggestions and scripture to consider in the above categories of prioritization:
1. God First - Enter into deeper relationship, worship and awareness of God. Make Him first priority or all else will not work.
Mat 22:37 — Mat 22:40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.
Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.
2. NEIGHBORS SECOND in order from closest to farthest
A. Family - rediscover my spouse, love my spouse more than self, show - not just say, be a father/wife to my children to show the love of Christ and show how to be a Godly man/woman in Christ.
My closest neighbors consist of my spouse and my children. I cannot rightly be said to be loving my neighbor if I jump over my closest neighbor and focus on serving those most distant before fulfilling the responsibilities specifically articulated by God in His word.
Genesis 2:18 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
Ephesians 5:25 — 5:30 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Deuteronomy 6:7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Psalms 127:3 Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.
Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
B. Friends Identify true friends, cultivate relationship, maintain fellowship. Eliminate poisonous attachments.
Proverbs 17:17 A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.
Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly:and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
2 Samuel 13:3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtle man.
John 15:15 Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Romans 16:7 Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.
C. Ministry - clarify the current purpose and aims of God's ministry calling and do not accumulate unrelated distractions. Work in unity as a Family in all to which God has called us, serving those around us both near and far.
Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. (from closest to farthest)
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Matthew 22:37 — 22:40 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
1 Corinthians 4:1 Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
1Peter 4:10 — 4:11 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
It is not easy to balance all that life throws our way, but we must seek to use God's priorities to keep us on track. His ways are the best ways and are the best paths to a spiritually healthy and productive life with Him and for Him.