That first word in the title is, of course, an invention—not mine, but another’s A member of our, Theological School Committee has been responsible for handling matters which concern government approval of our Seminary for foreign students. This involves untangling a considerable amount of “red tape.” Since this approval must be made by immigration officials, since they are understaffed, government conveniently presents the officials with a list of “priorities”. Whatever is first on the list, is dealt with first. Items on, the bottom of this list of “priorities” receive scant, if any, attention. Recognition of seminaries for purpose of admitting foreign students happens to be on the bottom of the list of “priorities.” So it becomes rather frustrating in trying to accomplish what is not on the top of this list. It was in that context that this Theological School Committee representative, tongue in cheek, suggested to the official with which he was dealing, that perhaps it was time they began to “re-prioritize” their priorities.
That thought has remained in my mind. Surely, one of the signs of the end of this age is this question of “priorities.” Everyone, whether he admits it or not, has such a list of priorities. There are certain things which each believes he must accomplish. Either these must be accomplished because we find pleasure in doing them or because external circumstances demand that they be finished. Other items lower on this list of “priorities” will be finished if one has the time and opportunity.
It makes for an interesting study of one’s own life when the question is asked, “What are your priorities?” What comes first, second, third, or fourth, etc. in your life? A clear indication of the end of this age is seen when governments and also churches have on the top of their priority lists that which concerns this world and its improvement. The same is true with respect to individuals. When on the top of his list of “priorities” is found that which is not spiritual but is. earthly and materialistic, then we are reminded again of the age of apostasy in which we live, where the earthly is first—and the heavenly is, perhaps, appended.
The child of God, then, recognizing the sinfulness of his own nature, is called repeatedly to “reprioritize” his priorities. More simply, Scripture insists: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness. . . .”
But what of this matter of our priorities? What comes first, or second, or third on our lists?
We face this question as churches. Other churches, as can be easily observed, in many instances have placed on the top of their “lists” not the preaching of the gospel, but social improvements. The preaching of the gospel is again regarded as both foolishness and weakness. But what of ourselves? Do we still realize the importance of the preaching of the Word? Do we insist on the regular attendance of the worship services? Do we maintain that the central element of all worship is the proclamation of Christ crucified? We, too, must beware the dangers of having other things intrude into that central calling of the church to preach the gospel. The “priorities” of the church are clearly outlined in Scripture. First, second, third, etc., are: the preaching of the Word. All other labors of the church must flow forth out of that. When churches depart from this Scriptural priority, they are called to re-prioritize their priorities.
The same must be true in the realm of education. We, at least, have set up schools as extensions of our Protestant Reformed homes. This has been done because parents believed that priorities in local Christian schools were not all proper. There had to be a “re-prioritizing” of priorities so that first things might always be first. But we had better ever keep that before our minds. There are constant dangers in the realm of education. We must keep proper priorities.
Priorities are present in the home and in the lives of individual children of God. Often, these priorities are not what they should be. That becomes very evident when one hears excuses given for failure to carry out necessary tasks.. How often one does not hear, “I don’t have time to learn my catechism lesson.” Or, “I don’t have enough time to study for society or to read Scripture as I ought.” Or, “I don’t have time to train and direct my children in a proper way.” Such statements obviously do not imply that this person has no time. All have an equal amount of time. But these statements suggest that in the order of priorities, catechism, societies, reading of Scripture and other endeavors of similar nature are on the bottom of our list.
Whatever is on the top, is accomplished. Perhaps one must spend his time, and all of his time, working—to advance himself on the earth. Perhaps one is much enthused about sports: participating or observing. Perhaps one is interested in a different sort of study: the reading of books and magazines which are not concerned with the spiritual. So, there is not time for the study of Scripture; it is on the bottom of the list.
On the bottom of the list, too, often is labor within the church. Many have no time to serve as officebearers, no time to visit the sick, no time to help those in need of assistance. Other things assume the priority.
And each must examine his own list of priorities. In these last days, priorities of many have been changing. Man seeks the earth and the things of this earth. He desires to establish a kingdom below. What, then, of our priorities?
Scripture speaks clearly on this. Jesus said in Matt. 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” This word of Christ does not mean that after seeking first the kingdom of God, that then we can seek whatever our flesh might desire. Rather, in seeking first that kingdom, there is no time nor opportunity to seek anything else. Seek always that kingdom of God. In all that one does, in all of his thoughts and words, he must reveal a seeking of that kingdom. That has the priority.
All that we do must be examined in light of that priority Jesus sets forth. If what we do does not measure up to that requirement, we are walking then in sin. We need, in the light of Scripture, a constant examination of our own priorities. We must be reminded of this in these days of great evil. Therefore there is the requirement that we hear regularly the pure preaching of the Word of God. Therefore we are required to study that Word faithfully. Therefore, too, we are to seek often the face of our heavenly Father for guidance and wisdom in this question of our “priorities.”
For many, there must also be a “re-prioritizing” of priorities. Putting this another, and Scriptural, way: there must be repentance from sin. Too often, one agrees to the theory that often we have wrong priorities. It is easy to agree. But how often one continues to go in the old course without change! Our lack of Scriptural studies continues; our interest in worldly entertainments, especially on T.V. and radio, remains unchanged. We can still enjoy the things of this earth—with our hearts set on such things. To “re-prioritize” simply means that we have a calling to flee from all things which interfere with our calling to seek the kingdom of God. The last days are indeed upon us. The temptation is very great to imitate this world. What this world finds to be most important also affects our thinking. When materialism is the spirit of this age, we think in those terms, too. When the world boasts of worldly peace, we would desire (sometimes) that kind of peace, too. When the world sets up its goals, these appear appealing to us, too. So, beware!
If we profess that our “priority” is the kingdom of God and its righteousness, then this must be evident in all things. In church, within our denomination (and particularly as we commemorate our 50th anniversary), we ought to be concerned with the maintaining of the pure preaching of the Word. Let us never succumb to the temptation to cater to the whims of man and change proper preaching into that which seems to satisfy the sinful flesh. In our schools, may our “priority” ever be to instruct covenant children in the fear of God’s Name and in harmony with our promise given in baptism. In our daily lives, may we be increasingly faithful—children of the light who look for the return of our Lord on the clouds of heaven.
The time is short. Many have distorted priorities. May ours be proper. Where such is necessary, may we have the wisdom and grace to “re-prioritize” our priorities. Thus may the Name of our God be most highly exalted.