First Things First

Years ago, when still in the business world, I read a book on time management. One of the key principles in the book was to assign a weight of importance to each task which I felt needed to be done. The most important would be labeled "A" projects, second in importance "B", and so on. It would seem obvious that we should put the most important first on the list of things to do. Yet often, when we do not label the tasks, we find ourselves filling our day doing many low priority tasks, constantly busy, but not getting very far ahead. There is a natural tendency in most of us to not want to tackle the A priority tasks, often because they are the most difficult to deal with and open us to a greater risk of failure. We all like to feel successful, and so, subconsciously we fill our day with many low priority tasks which offer a low risk of failure. The day was busy, the success rate high, and the delusion sets in that we had a successful day. But the day of reckoning will come. Because the important tasks wee put off, when we finally have to deal with them, they are often more difficult than if we took them on first.

A good plan is to mix up the tasks for the day so that one spends a good deal of time on the high priority tasks, but allows room to accomplish some low priority tasks which do not have as much stress as the high priority tasks usually have.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Now Jesus wasn't really talking about how to clean dishes so just in case these literalists missed the point, he brought the point closer to home:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matt. 23:23-28)

Have you ever noticed that we, Christians, do not like to be identified with the Pharisees! Jesus had so many unkind things to say about them. Yet look at them, imagine even tithing the smallest and least significant seed. Filling their lives with so many details all to attain righteousness must have kept them very busy. Can we take a closer look at these Pharisees for a moment from a point of view we might find a bit distasteful? Can we take the Pharisee out of the age of the Mosaic Law in which tithing mint and cummin was, in fact, a part of the agreement of that covenant, and bring the Pharisee into the Law of the Life in Christ Jesus, the New Covenant under which we, Christians, are to find our work and examples for living?

What activities might the modern Pharisee find himself or herself ever so busy doing which would cause Jesus to say the very same words to us today? What does the average Christian do today to fill the week with Christian activities? One to four hours of church services sitting in a pew on Sunday or Saturday, sometimes an hour or two hours of Bible study in the middle of the week, a certain amount of time reading the Bible, a certain amount of time in prayer, giving enough to the church to keep it running, a few odds and ends like supporting a foreign child somewhere, monthly pledge to a couple of organizations, member of one of the church committees. These are some of the things I can think of which filled the majority of the time of many of those who sat in pews with me at most the churches I have attended.

I would like for you to do something. I will not do it for you because I am not called to live your life. Under the New Covenant, your gifts, your calling, your position in Christ is different from mine. Yes, there are "weightier" matters of the New Covenant we can put on our list, but your list should look different from mine. What I want you to do is to make a list of what you spend your Christian life doing. Then in meekness and lowliness of heart, come to the throne of grace, come to the Bible, allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the "weightier" things of the New Covenant. See if the priorities are in the right order. Are we so busy "tithing mint" that we have neglected "weightier" matters?

Most of us are programmed long before we truly are converted as to what a Christian should do each week. The system has been around for a long time and it varies very little from one denomination to another. Are the time fillers things which Jesus would call "weightier" or are they just another form of "tithing mint?"

Jesus called the Pharisees "blind guides." Do you know that we are the "guides" to this world? We are the light of the world! Could we possibly be New Testament "guides" who have become blind and do not know it?

Coming before our Lord in sincerity, asking Him what His priorities are, will bring us a long way out of our darkness. Being honest enough with ourselves to not think we are incapable of being "blind guides" is a first step in being able to prioritize our daily Christian walk.

Go to Him. He has all the time in the world. With Him as your time manager and counselor, your life will be full to overflowing with the right mixture of activity. Much of what I did in my "church life" was not "weightier" matters or even low priority. It was NO priority, but then I was following blind guides. Follow the Holy Spirit. He knows the Way, the Truth, the Life, and He has all of God's priorities straight.

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