First Priority?

BY LUE-YEE TSANG

Many people call God the first priority in their lives. Or perhaps they pray, “Lord, help us to make you our first priority.” Sounds right. After all, does Jesus not say, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33, emphasis mine)?

Hold your horses. Read that verse again. This time you may notice that it doesn’t say “seek first your God” but to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Fine, but does that mean we should seek these in place of God? Surely not, for the Psalmist says :

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud;
 be gracious to me and answer me!
You have said, “Seek my face.”
My heart says to you,
 “Your face, Lord, do I seek.”
 Hide not your face from me. (Ps. 27:7–9a)

So it should be in seeking God’s face that we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. It is under this heading that what we place them before our “practical” concerns for what we will eat and wear.

What I mean by “first” is that we must examine our habit of calling God our number one on our list of priorities and stopping at this lip service, which shows Him no honor. Following Christ is something more radical: the list is entirely about Him; it’s not about seeking God first but seeking Him only. There is a crucial difference between “first priority” out of many and “Lord” over all priorities who sets those priorities in order by His own good pleasure. To relegate Him to “first priority” is to deny Him lordship over the others.

For the church, the Lord Jesus Christ is not merely our first priority, but our first love. Because the church is wedded to God alone, a disciple of Christ does not do first the God thing and then the “other” things, but rather he is given wholly and irrevocably to the Saviour who has called and taken him from death to life. In this eternal life this same Saviour, Creator of all things in heaven and earth, is master and teacher and father.

Moreover, there is no way at all that I can ever fully accomplish what the Lord wants of me:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12–14)

A son cannot say to his father, “I have discharged my duty to you. Now you are no longer my father.” Why? Because the relationship between the father and the son is not dependent on the fulfillment of any “duties,” even that of filial piety that the son may owe the father. The relationship was intrinsic from the moment of the child’s conception, and not so readily broken. Unlike our earthly fathers, God also rightfully lays claim to everything that we do. Because He’s our Father there’s no termination to our bond, but because He’s our eternal Father there’s no limit to the effects this bond can have on every facet of our lives.

When we are His children adopted and bought by His very blood, which was shed for us, we are not our own, for we were bought with a price (1 Cor. 6:19–20). No one who has been bought not with thirty pieces of silver but with the life of the One and Only can still claim headship of his own self.

We are the Lord’s! There is no “secular” in our life when we are in Him, because we have been justified before Him and engrafted into His life, so that nothing in our being can be profane: all of it is to be holy, consecrated, set apart for Him and His glorious works of righteousness. God demands my soul, my life, my all. And if all of life is holy, none is apart from Him: because of His faithfulness to us none of it can be released from our commitment to Him—not that our word is eternal but that His is eternal, not because of what we’ve said but because of what He’s done.

As the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper famously said about the role of God in everyday life,

Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”

We have but one Lord who owns all that we are: YHWH, God of earth and sky. Is Christ just my “first priority”, one out of many, distinguished only by degree of importance, or does He alone determine and rule over all my priorities as the Way, the Truth underlying that Way, and the Life to and through which the Way leads? As we discover how the truth of the Gospel changes the way we view and interpret our world, and how the Way then changes the way we act, we see the abundance of living in Christ.

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