Setting Priorities Straight- The Season is Now

Ordered Priorities or Priorities in Order

Love your Creator with all your strength, and give His ministers your support. Ben Sira 7:30 (GNB)
Put Your Priorities in Order!

Have you put your priorities in order as it is officially November and the season of rush is beginning? Have you mapped out your plan? Have you worked out the details? Do all my questions promote a thought of exhaustion? A quick search on Google and you will find 7,610,000 sites of how you should be preparing for Thanksgiving and if you want to include Christmas, well then simply add 10,700,000. You might want to get started because that is a lot of time to spend going through sites to make sure you set your priorities straight so your family and loved ones will have the “perfect” celebration. Does the thought of all this make you exhausted now? Do you need to make a list of your holiday priorities?

I like to set my priorities with lists and I am a pretty good list maker. I really like lists, I have all types of them mostly because I like the feeling I get when I mark off tasks from my list accomplishing my ordered priorities. Sometimes though I stay too busy with just making lists and it throws off my priorities. I have a list for everything; work, personal, family, church, organizations, chores, grocery, studio, and the list goes on, no pun intended. I really must confess that I like writing out my lists but I have problems keeping up with all my lists and have discovered apps for my lists. They do not however have the same emotional effect as taking the pen and marking through completed tasked priorities but I can keep up with them better. I have a new calendar that I found a few months ago and it has become my one place to at least determine where my family needs to go or where they are at most any time of the day. This app allows me to set up every family member and their respective events with color codes. It is a delight for those like me who love details but I often find myself losing time trying to keep my time organized and my priorities straight. I like the idea of ordering my priorities but I have recently begun to ponder if my priorities are in order because there is a big difference in the two.

Our culture seems a bit off-balance when contemplating priorities and the busyness of life. I recently read a list of common myths that we, as a culture, have come to believe when we look toward setting our priorities for work versus rest.

1. Being busy equals being important.

2. We are all in a rat race because one of the rats will win.

3. If we will just hurry up we will have more time.

4. Down time is just wasted time.

These myths seem rather silly when we read them but it is really how we seem to conduct our lives or at least it is the appearance when you look at how we set up our priorities. As we look to these four listed myths we can equally combat them with a sobering view of how God may perceive them.

  1. God will not ask us on judgment day to prove how busy we were.

  2. God is not interested in what we do as much as whom we are.

  3. If we rush through life it will provide for more time and we will see to fill it with extra work.

  4. There is a reason that God established the Sabbath for rest.

Perhaps in our seemingly hurried world we really need to reset our priorities. It seems we may just be missing out on the best things in life. There is a Scottish legend that tells us very vividly that when we set our priorities on the wrong things we really lose out on the best things.

There was a very poor boy who was tending some sheep on a mountain side one day. As he gazed around in watchful attendance he saw at his feet a beautiful flower. It was so very beautiful that he could not resist picking it. As he plucked the flower from the ground he heard a sound.

Looking up he saw the mountain before him open up, revealing a large cavern filled with precious gems and metals. He walked into the cavern, laid down the flower, and began to gather all of the gold, silver, and precious gems that he could carry. When he could not carry any more he turned to take his leave of the cavern and heard a voice say, “Don’t forget the best”.

So he turned back again and gathered even more of the riches into his arms, stuffing all of his pockets too. He left the cavern as the mountainside closed up behind him and all the riches that he had worked so hard to gather in both his arms and his pockets turned to dust. Shocked he quickly turned around to see if he could find his way back into the cavern filled with riches when the voice spoke again saying, “You forgot the best. For the flower is the key to the vault of the mountain.”

How often in our rush to set up our priorities of worldly things do we miss out on the best? In our haste and anticipation of busyness in the upcoming season how often do we put ourselves in a position that we lose sight of thanking God for the very things that we have wrongfully listed as celebration priorities. Have we ordered our priorities or put our priorities in order? As we look to setting our priorities for this year’s season of busyness maybe it is time to look carefully at exactly what our real priorities should be and why.

Our focus verses this week comes once again from the Apocrypha * book of Ben Sirach 7:30 and the story of Martha, Mary, and Jesus in Luke 10: 38-42.

Love your Creator with all your strength, and give His ministers your support. (Ben Sirach 7:30 GNBDC)

‘There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’ (Luke 10:42 NLT)

Loving Our Creator by Sitting at His Feet

I love the story of Martha and Mary. I guess because I am a Martha and I can relate. Martha is the detail person, she likes to please, serve others, and do the right thing. I know exactly how Martha felt that day in the kitchen. She had worked hard to make sure every detail received attention. She had made the lists, cleaned the house, gathered the food, and then prepared it. Martha used the best of everything they had. She wanted this meal, this event, to be perfect just like she had seen in the latest issue of Better Hebrew Homes. Martha had high expectations that the roasted lamb would equal perfection, the vegetables seasoned just right, and maybe the bread shaped like a sheaf of wheat. The correct wine would be served, the marror (bitter herbs) needed to be picked at the right time of day and prepared for serving, and the salted water placed on the table for those sticky fingers to be washed. She had made her list, set, and ordered her priorities. The family has a most special guest and therefore it took a lot of preparation. Mary had helped of course until now.

Martha is racing around the kitchen and realizing that her ordered priorities are all coming due at once. She looks out the kitchen door and sees her sister just sitting at Jesus’ feet. Can you imagine how she felt? She is getting mad and the more she races around the madder she is getting.  She is probably slamming a few pots, stomping her foot, counting to ten, huffing, and puffing. She probably has looked out the kitchen door a multitude of times at this point trying to get her sister’s attention to come and help her get the meal out but her sister only has eyes for their guest and her full attention is on Him. Martha is getting really angry, she feels like a one woman show; really who does her sister think she is?

Finally she can stand it no more and she does exactly what the Hebrew Etiquette Today Scrolls say she should never do. She marches out right in front of their guest to confront her sister and instead puts her honored, cherished, and loved guest in the middle of her one-sided argument.

– She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” (Luke 10:40, b, c NLT)

Martha has now done the unthinkable, she has involved a highly honored guest in the middle of a sister squabble, a family dispute. The text of course doesn’t say but I am thinking that as soon as the words were out of her mouth she regretted saying them. She probably wished the ground would have opened up and swallowed her whole, anything to escape the scene she has now created for herself all because of her ordered priorities. But Jesus doesn’t rebuke her for her rudeness in front of Him, a guest. He does however gently correct her and helps her see that her ordered priorities were not priorities in order.

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 41-42 NLT)

Wow, not much to say after that. I imagine that Martha might have hung her head down a little in shame because Jesus has helped her realize that although her priorities were good they were not the best. The preparation distracted Martha. In her attempt to give her guest the best of comforts, she made the preparations of the comforts more important than the guest. Martha forgot to put her guest first and that was the entire reason for her ordered priorities.

Mary however sat at the feet of Jesus and listened. Mary who had no ordered priorities had her priorities in order. Like Mary, we need to put our most significant relationships first – beginning with the head of the list, Christ. We must learn to never be so busy that we neglect the quiet time of peace that we can spend with our Lord. When we sit at the feet of Jesus we show Jesus how much we love Him. Martha was so busy doing things for Jesus that she allowed her service to be self-serving. We cannot allow ourselves to get so busy ordering our priorities that our priorities get out-of-order. Often we get so caught up with our busyness that we wind up doing work that isn’t necessary. A modern story I read recently takes this to point.

Richard was part of a division team involved in a big project for the company he was working for. The specific task he was working on for the project presently had about a week’s worth of time invested in it and he was making great progress.

The project manager had called for a special team meeting one morning for all those that were directly involved in the different elements of the project. Richard was so busy working on his specific task for the project that he missed the beginning of the meeting. He decided that since he was already late, he would just continue working on what he was doing.

Richard got so involved in his work that before he knew it several hours passed and it was time for lunch. Richard was so proud of what he had accomplished as his project manager stopped by after the meeting to look in the warehouse at all he had done. Richard beamed like a peacock waiting for the pat on the back but the manager just shook his head. “Things really look good in here it is a shame you did it all for nothing, as yesterday it was decided that the project would be moved to the company headquarters (which was in another town) and taken over by a team there.” He then added, “You would have known this if you had been at the meeting this morning!” Richard’s pat on the back turned into a kick in the gut.

Richard was so busy with his ordered priorities that his priorities were not in order. He was so busy working that he missed out on what he really needed to do. Isn’t this Martha’s problem? Isn’t she so busy that she forgot to put Jesus first? Instead of being busy we need to come and love our Creator at His feet. It is at His feet our most important lessons can be learned. When we love our Creator at His feet our priorities sit correctly in place because we have put Him first. There are many lessons to be learned at His feet; information, instruction, correction, and direction if we will simply come and love our Lord because it is not about us it is about Him. David understood this as he tells us in Psalms 27:4 that the one thing he asks above all is to live in the house of the Lord for the rest of his life delighting in His perfectness and meditating in His presence.

As we prepare for the season of busyness we must not allow ourselves to get caught up in the details as they can make us forget the initial reason for our actions. Let us not order our priorities but instead set our priorities in order starting by sitting at the feet of Jesus showing our Creator the strength of our love.

Love in Christ,

E.J.

Post Script:

Even in our most respected positions within our churches we cannot allow our seasonal services to turn into mere busy work that loses the devotion to God. A wise man once said;

It is not about how many times you have been through the Bible but how many times the Bible has been through you.

Allow the Bible to move through you the next two months as you focus on the very grateful season we are entering upon.

What are Your Thoughts? Join Us in Discussion.

Are you guilty of being an obsessed list maker? Do you find yourself getting carried away in the preparation details and ordering your priorities instead of setting your priorities in order? Have you found a way to balance the stress of the impending season and place your focus at the feet of Jesus? Join us in discussion on this or other related topics.

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