2000 by Arlo E. Moehlenpah

Whereas all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable, not all scripture is of equal priority. Jesus said that some commandments were "weightier" matters. Three times in the "Sermon on the Mount" Jesus used the word "first." I believe that he was not just referring to first in order of time but first in priority.

Jesus said, seek "first" the kingdom of God and his righteousness and the other matters such as food and clothing would be added unto us. He taught us to pray "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done." In other words, doing the will of God should be a top priority. He also said, If your brother have aught against you, leave your gift at the altar, and go your way and "first" be reconciled to your brother. He considered a proper relationship with your fellow man more important than religious rituals. "Go your way" may require a visit, a telephone call, or a letter. By whatever means it takes, reconciliation and fellowship should be a high priority. The term "brother" could also include members of your own family. He also said, "First" cast the beam out of your own eye and then you can see clearly to cast the mote out of your brother's eye. In other words, first take care of the major problems in your own life before looking at the tiny faults in your brethren. Some people are like a man with dirty glasses who thinks that the whole world is dirty when really he needs first to clean his own glasses. Others are like the man with Limburger cheese on his mustache who thinks the whole world stinks when really he needs first to clean his mustache. Why do people continually look for the tiny faults in others? Could it be jealousy causing them to look for flaws in others? Could it be self-righteousness causing one to think that he is better? Could it be hypocrisy where one pretends he has no faults? Or could it be pride where one is not willing to admit his own faults? This scripture does not say not to help your brother but rather that you cannot see clearly to help him until you first clean your own glasses. Jesus told the Pharisees to cleanse "first" that which is within the cup and platter that the outside of them may be clean also. Christ did not give us a choice of either cleansing the outside or the inside but rather he said to cleanse the inside first. It is not either/or but rather both in their proper order.

The apostles also had to consider their priorities. When bogged down with the care of the widows, they said it was not reason that they should leave the word of God and serve tables. The choosing of the seven to take care of this matter showed that this was a necessary function of the church. However, the top priorities for the apostles were prayer and the ministry of the word. Paul later exhorted Timothy that "first of all," supplications, prayers, and intercession be made for all men.

In a Christian's walk the choices are often not between good and bad but between good and better or maybe even between better and best. Martha's serving was all right, but Mary chose the better part. There is nothing wrong with wood, hay, or stubble, but gold, silver, and precious stones have greater value and will withstand the test of fire and time. There are electives and there are imperatives.

In establishing priorities it is wise to write down the things that a person needs to do and then ask the following questions. 1. What needs to be done first? 2. What is most important? 3. What can be eliminated? 4. What can be delegated?

As one approaches his final days one is more apt to evaluate priorities and his last words should be considered of great importance. I believe we also should consider the last words of Jesus as top priority. He gave two basic commandments prior to ascending: 1. Receive the Holy Ghost. 2. Be a witness of him all over the world. After achieving a right relationship with the Lord, teaching and preaching this gospel must be a top priority.

I don't think it takes great awareness to recognize that we live in times of crisis. I once read, "We dare not spend time straightening pictures on the walls of burning buildings. We must give priority to training and discipling as many Christians as possible in the least possible time." This is the top priority of Christian Life College.

Edited version of this appeared in Gospel Tidings, Western District of the United Pentecostal Church, April 1993, Page 8 

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