Can I judge your priorities for you?
This week God has drawn my attention to priorities. More to the point other peoples priorities. I have had 2 encounters in as many days this week with people whose priorities did not match mine. This left me frustrated and if I'm honest more than a little irritated. But after taking a deep breath I had to ask myself "why should they"?
I work in the wedding industry and if you want to see a group of people try to complete the same task with completely different priorities from each other then you only have to watch a family try to plan a wedding together.
As Christians we know that our priorities must always be in line with God's priorities. Our priorities weave themselves in and around our emotions and lives. They link themselves to what we worry about, what we invest in and even what we worship. Getting them right is crucial as decisions we make over and over again will become lifetime habits.
In Pauls letters he continually tries to help communities who are learning how to navigate the sinful environment they live in and Paul gives them many pieces of advice on what to prioritise and how to act.
In 1 Corinthians 10 verse 31 he says "....whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
In Philippians 4 verse 8-9 he tells them "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. What you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me, put it into practice. And the God of Peace will be with you.
In our lives we have to make decisions on where our priorities lie. What to fill our lives with. Where to put our time and energy. How to handle work and home issues, how to raise and educate our children and when making these decisions it is always wise to take a moment and ask yourself,
- Is it going to help show God's love to the world? Are my actions likely to bring others to Christ or push them away? Am I acting in a Christ like way?
- Is it going to keep me in line with God's commandments, will it cause me to go against God's will or even cause another to sin?
- Will it help me move forward in my walk with God, will it help me to continue to grow spiritually or hold me and others around me back?
When we are undecided about what path to take we can often ask ourselves these questions and the correct path will become clear. But sometimes it doesn't, because although God is interested and invested in every part of our lives not every decision will have an impact on our spiritual lives and are therefore just decisions on how we want to do life. And here in a way lies the problem because each one of us will tackle these smaller day to day issues differently. We will all want to handle them in our own way, things like,
- What meals we cook our family.
- Which charities we give our money and time to.
- Whether you throw your child a big or small birthday party
- Whether your child spends more time at home with family or socialising at after school activities.
- Whether you like to read your Bible cover to cover or pick and mix your way through.
For example one mother may like to serve fast and simple meals to her family during the week because she thinks having more time to read books at bedtime is important. Another may only read one short book to her children because she feels the family sitting down to a meal she loving spent time preparing is more important. Which is right?
The problem we have is although the Bible tells us to correct each other (such as in Galatians 6 verse 1 - "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently...") and we should judge others as a way to help them with their spiritual walk and a wise person will consider any advice given, when there is only personal choice with no right or wrong we are not actually helping, correcting or advising we are just JUDGING.
Not only is judging others in this manor unkind, it's powerful. When out of control it leads to feelings of superiority, gossip, and ultimately broken relationships.
When we think someone else's priorities are wrong what we are actually saying is "if your not doing it like me, your doing it wrong". Now I have a personality that leans towards controlling and I know this is as much a weakness as it is a strength. I constantly need God to remind me its not that my way is the right and theirs is the wrong but actually its just sometimes there are many ways to the same outcome. We should all be heading towards Christ, but each walk will look different.
When we tell someone it would be better for them to do it like you. Or to put their time and effort in to things you deem to be of more importance you're assume to know what is best for another person and that because we're all Christians all our priorities should be the same. But what kind of world would we end up with if this were true?
Where would the Olympics be without parents who prioritised after school sports. Where would the 3rd world be if we all prioritised cancer charities? Where would our church worship bands be if we all prioritised youth ministry?
God made us different, with different hearts, skills and passions. Because of this we will react to the world around us differently and this is what makes our communities, families and churches work.
Paul reminds the Christians in Rome of this in Romans 12 verse 6-8 where he tells them "We have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him teach, if it is encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously, if it is leadership, let him govern diligently, if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
We are all called to love and care for others but we can't all do all things, so when one person decides to travel abroad to work with children and another decides to volunteer in a local soup kitchen they are both following God's commandments and fulfilling a need and f we all follow the path we are called on to and don't try to either jump on to others or worse still pull others on to ours against their will then God will be able to use us to cover the world with his provision.
So when someone doesn't prioritise the same things as you take a step back before you run in with your advice and ask yourself.
- Am I about to give advice because I truly know there is a better way for THEM that will help THEM with what THEY want to achieve?
- Am I saying it because I love and care for them?
- Am I helping them achieve a greater relationship with God?
- Or do I just think everyone should be a bit more like me?