“Do we make God our first priority?” is a question I’ve heard many times growing up in church. As Westerners, we like things to be in order and make logical sense, we make lists. We try to reason out that God is the most important thing in our lives if we begin every day with a devotional or time of prayer. We like to make lists that say things like…
…or some other variation of an easily digestible, step-by-step progression of our priorities in life.
We like to take the words of Jesus in Scripture and make them into a system by which to live, instead of guidelines for a relationship. All who’ve grown up in Church have heard of the First and Second “greatest commands” right? We usually list them in our minds or on paper like this:
- Greatest Command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
- Second Greatest Command: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Seems pretty easy, right? Except, when we think like that, we’re thinking exactly like the Pharisee was who tried to “test” Jesus by asking the question of “which is the great commandment in the Law?”
Here’s the problem with thinking in linear terms with God: He doesn’t. He’s not caged in by time and linear progressions which are time-dependent… things like lists. So, here’s the full response Jesus gave:
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 22:35-40
Here’s something I love so much about Jesus’ responses when he was challenged by a cocky religious leader: He never gave them the satisfaction of the type of answer they wanted. The phrase Jesus used to describe the “second” commandment – “And a second is like it” – is key to understanding His answer. He didn’t say “and the second in importance…” the way those listening would have received Jesus’ words would have been “And there’s a second one that is ALSO the greatest.” Jesus had quite a reputation for tripping up the religiosity of the fundamentalists of His day, and it often trips us up in our order of thinking still to this day.
Jesus does not give us a list of priorities to follow in order to put Him “first.” He expects us to make Him central to everything. He wants to be in a relationship with us that involves Him in everything we do. He doesn’t want to be a “quiet time” we check off our list every morning, then move to giving time to the “second most important” item.
I’m not bashing times of prayer and devotion, I love both, but when I have those times and the frequency in which I have them doesn’t make me anymore a Christ-follower than opening up a Bible makes me more holy. My life being different because of the relationship I do have with God is what allows Him a place of centrality in my life. When everything I do is impacted by Him, then He is in the place He should be.
The more I know God, and the more I learn about His character, the more I’m convinced that we try so hard to make His simple plan as complicated as we can.
His plan is us.
His desire is to be in relationship with all of us and all of His creation.
It’s really that simple.
Don’t make Him first on your list. Make Him central to your life.
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