It’s not unusual to hear people say, especially within the Church, that their priorities are God, their family, their friends, and then their jobs. The spirit behind such comments is noble: God is first, but we don’t forget about friends and family. However, I don’t believe this is a good way of looking at things. See, if God is first, there might be something about your job that takes priority over family. For instance, if you’re a firefighter and there’s a major fire going on, which is more important, going to the fire or stopping off and picking up orange juice at the grocery store for the family? I know that’s an extreme case, but it reveals how faulty it is to try and compartmentalize our lives based on these types of broad categories.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, ESV
You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God. – 1 Corinthians 7:23-24, ESV
In context, the first set of verses, from 1 Corinthians 6, refers to keeping our bodies pure, however, the point that is made is that we have been bought with the shed blood of Christ. The second set of verses is in the context of how to live. Again, we see Paul saying we were bought with a price. This is an important fact to remember: we are not our own, for Christ purchased us through His death on the Cross. As a result, He should have dominion over every aspect of our lives. Let me use an analogy.
I was in one of those large home improvement stores recently. There are plenty of supplies and you can buy what you need to fix your bathroom, add a deck to your house, or stand up that swing set by buying the bits and pieces. You don’t even have to buy them all at one time. If you can only afford part of it now and part of it a little later, and if your project can stand the delay or you have a place to safely store the supplies until you have all you need, you can do this piecemeal purchase. That store also has kits for several types of projects where everything you need (except the tools) are put together in one big package with one fixed price. Now, some of those kits require employees to go and get all the bits and put them together for you to take home when you go to purchase the kit, but you’re still getting everything all at once. You make one purchase and you own every material and component you need to accomplish the project.
This is the way God purchased us. He purchased all of us at one time. He didn’t purchase us in bits and pieces. He didn’t purchase our devotion to Him and then put a down payment on our family with an option to buy on our jobs. He bought everything with that action of ultimate sacrifice upon the Cross. Therefore, every aspect of our lives is to be for God, and that means He is the only priority. Others may compartmentalize their lives or see our lives as segmented, but each of us should see his or her life as a whole: one complete body for one Almighty God. If God is our only priority, then everything gets covered in its right place and order. What I say is not inconsistent with what I do. So when I choose to go to that fire over picking up the orange juice, I’m not contradicting what I said my priorities are. Rather, if my focus is on God and He says the fire is more important, then that’s what I’m to do.
Now He could throw us a real jaw dropper and tell us that the orange juice is more important. And the “rational” person would say, “But there are lives on the line at the fire!” What we and those “rational” people might not be able to see is that getting the orange juice puts us at home the very minute we’re needed for a medical emergency concerning someone in our family. That’s the the other problem with trying to determine priorities in boxes. We don’t see it all. What may seem like a minor priority isn’t. But only God would know that. If we try to determine our priorities based on what we think and based on the compartments and rules we’ve set up, we will eventually blow it. Only by allowing God to be the sole focus, to recognize that He bought us in whole and therefore deserves us wholly, is the way to get it right.