This is Day Two of a deep and meaningful look at what Tom Holladay calls “The Relationship Principles of Jesus“. I will be diving into what this book ultimately explains: the greatest commandments and how they apply to us. At the core of these commandments is relationship. I understand that this may be a lot, but it is broken down into 6 sections which are further broken down into 40 days.
On the first day, we discovered that “nothing is more important than relationships”. In Mark 12:29-31, the scripture that Jesus quoted was in the Torah (the book of the Law). In essence, the commands come down to two things that we as God’s people are to do. Love God and Love People. It is as simple as that. Except that it is difficult to actually do.
Now that we have observed what Jesus commands, we can move into the information to ponder on today. And that is, prioritization. Whether we consciously do it or unconsciously do it, we prioritize constantly. There are a lot of times we choose to go with what is easier or more comfortable. And Holladay gives us a look at the temptation to prioritize two of the most common items on the list over relationships.
The two most common items we seem to prioritize over relationships are money and tasks, according to Holladay. Making money and performing tasks are neither good nor bad. The point is where they fall on the list of priorities. Relationships should be number one on the list. And the Scripture brought up for this point is from Matthew 6:24-33 where the Sermon on the Mount is recorded. We can’t serve two masters. And God cares for us and provides for us. Jesus made the reference to birds having what they need to eat without working for it or being concerned about it. They simply seek and find. And the lilies of the field, which grows and looks beautiful without working for it. These things God takes care of for them. How much more can we trust Him to take care of us and our needs when we have a relationship with Him?
When we are in a relationship, say a friendship, and our friend needs some food because they forgot to bring lunch for the day. We feel inclined to get them some food or at least give them some of ours, don’t we? God has everything at His disposal. He will give to us what we NEED. So there is no need to worry.
A little side note on worry. There are several things that can happen when we are consumed with worry. Worry may damage your health. It may cause the object of your worry to consume you thoughts, which in turn disrupts your productivity. It can certainly negatively affect the way you treat others. And overall, it can reduce your ability to trust in God. There is a difference between worry and genuine concern. Here is how you can tell between the two. Worry immobilizes you. Whereas, genuine concern causes you to be motivated to do something.
Back to relationships. At the end of this portion of Jesus’ sermon in verse 33, He says to seek first the Kingdom of God. That relationship with God as our King. He is to be the first place in every area of our lives. There are many things that can usurp God’s rightful place on our priority list as of utmost importance. People, objects, goals, and other desires all compete for priority. To “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness”is to turn to Him first for help, to fill your thoughts with His desires, to take His character for our pattern, and to serve and obey Him in everything.
Holloday brings up a great point in Jesus’ “food and clothing” portion. “Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing?” That is a great question to ask ourselves. Are we just going through life trying to obtain the bare necessities, or are we experiencing life in its fullness as given to us by God? The thoughts for most of us is not only food and clothing, but I am willing to bet that our life experiences include relationships with a myriad of people – significant other, children, parents, extended family members, friends, co-workers, social group members, religious organization members, supermarket workers or co-shoppers, gas station attendants, postal workers, neighbors, random people we smile at when walking sidewalks or tracks, etc. We are meant to interact with others and live in community. The contact point that places us “in community” is the fact that we have a relationship one to another. And God tells us to commune with Him – be in community with Him.
Placing Him first on our priority list in every area will help to align the areas of our lives where He is at. Two sentences that the author states really helps to keep me on the right track in my overthinking thought processes. They are:
God does not demand of me that I accomplish great things. He does demand of me that I strive for excellence in my relationships.Ted W. Engstrom, The Making of a Christian Leader (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1976), 81.
The author states that these had profound impact on him. And I, too, agree that the impact on me was great as well. Have you ever had that feeling that what you understood fixed a bunch of problems at the same time, and you have that moment where you feel like you can just take a breather? That is what it felt like when I read this quote. I felt as though I was not pressured anymore. My goal, beforehand, was to give excellent and profound content – which I know I am still learning and attempting but nowhere near my goal. Now, my goal for life in general is to make the time I have with each person count. The conversations and interactions I have with others should not be driven by a sense of getting something done, but to be in communion with that person or people. To be present for that person.
The author poses a question at the end to consider. He states, “What do the ways in which I spend my time and money say about the top priorities in my life?” Hmmm. This gets me thinking that I need to re-prioritize some things in my life. How about you?
Gotta go fill up my cup…..