God Isn’t the No. 1 Priority for Christians. Priority Is the Wrong Word.

Yes, I admit that title is a bit click-baity, but let me explain.

Back when I was in high school, we talked in youth group about priorities. What did we value in life more than anything else? What did we spend most of our time on?

I remember one time we did this exercise where we listed our priorities. I think I had my girlfriend at the time as No. 1, school as No. 2, food as No. 3 (some things never change) and God as No. 4. I was (sinfully) impressed with my own honesty as well as concerned.

Well, if I can be honest, I don’t know if that’s changed all that much. Of course I’d love to say He’s No. 1. But as I’ve thought about this language, this semantic, this rhetoric, there’s something missing and lacking, in my opinion, by discussing God and religion and relationship this way.

It’s most recently come to my life with my recent engagement. I told my fiancée the other day, “You’re my No. 1 priority.” I paused, thinking, “Wait, isn’t it supposed to be God/Jesus?”

Another thought then crossed my mind: “Isn’t God/Jesus supposed to be the basis for all my life?”

Isn’t it possible that the danger with listing things in priorities – and by no means is this a life-and-death danger, but just something curious and interesting – is that we can begin to compartmentalize our lives? We can say, “OK, God is No. 1. Then my schoolwork or job is No. 2. Then my friendships are No. 3.” Perhaps that’s the level of concern we should apply to those things. And it’s not absolutely terrible to think about life in that way.

But the compartmentalization can lead us to thinking that God doesn’t associate with our jobs, or our friendships don’t associate with our church life, or Jesus has nothing to do with how I eat. And that’s just not true.

In Colossians 1, Paul is writing about the preeminence of Christ. “He is the image of the invisible God,” v. 15 says, “the firstborn of all creation.” Verses 16-17 add this:

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

The idea Paul deposits here is that Jesus is the beginning and the end, the basis for everything, the glue for everything. He’s the foundation, the rock. We talk about Jesus as the cornerstone of the Church (Ephesians 2:20). Everything was started through Him. Through Him, for Him. Everything, whether we see it or not, is tied into Jesus.

And the same goes for our lives. Compartmentalizing can become dangerous, especially when other people are involved.

It kinda depends on your life stage what your priorities are, what your attention goes to, but the idea that Jesus is the cornerstone of all your priorities helps keep in focus, I think, why you’re doing what you’re doing. If Jesus is the basis for your priorities instead of just another option on the list, you’re keeping in sight how important He really is and how He affects everything you do.

That doesn’t mean you don’t need to make time in your day specifically for Jesus like you do for your spouse or keeping yourself clean. It’s the springboard for everything else. It’s the foundation. It’s the fuel. You can’t give the proper attention you need to your other priorities without getting something from Jesus first.

Yes, this is semantics and perhaps a bit nit-picky, but semantics are important. Semantics deals with the meanings of words and phrases. And since words and phrases are an everyday part of our lives, in our relationships with others, our relationship with ourself and our relationship with God, they’re important to be aware of.

So what should our priorities be? Family, friends, our jobs, our health, our ministry. Whatever God has put in front of us, whatever sustains us and whatever we care about the most.

And Jesus gives us reason and purpose to faithfully pursue each and every one of those things.

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