Navigating life can be difficult and arduous if there is no central guiding compass. Obviously for us, we love the Lord so His will matters. Believers seek to orient their life in such a way to honor our Lord – a proper fear true believers maintain. But this is not always easy either considering the pressures of life – work, kids, spouse, family, church, hobbies, sports, activities, etc. Most of us do the best we can and often adulting equates to being tired and worn out from always going. In the going process we can develop bad attitudes, resentment, and even bitterness regarding our situation in life and how and ask, is there ever a break? A day off sometimes isn’t even enough to cure the exhaustion. Week in and out, it’s rinse, wash, wipe, rinse, and then repeat. Priorities are often the tyranny of the urgent.
A believer should organize his or her priorities biblically. There may be no greater practice than this. When I think about what God commands me to do and honors Him, worshipping Him and loving one another comes to mind quickly (the two great commandments). How I dedicate my life, the selfish sacrifices I put aside in order to serve Him are worship. God has provided some clear commands on how and who receives the priorities. For me, the following relationships exist in my life: wife, kids, church family, coworkers, intermediate family, neighbors, people I see on a consistent basis, and strangers. God actually has mentioned each of these people (categorically) to me too in His Word. I will be held accountable for the way I serve each of these people.
I have boiled the list of people down categorically to this: wife (spouse), kids and family, church family, work, and neighbors. Each group should be defined.
Spouse: He or she is the person you agreed to walk in life with as one flesh through thick and thin, hardships and joy, for better or worse. Kids and family are not my one flesh relationship, but I do have responsibilities to care for them, love them, teach them, honor them, and serve them. Spouse and family are distinct.
Family: My parents are a one flesh relationship. My kids, (Please Lord), will leave the house and form their own family unit. This doesn’t mean I’m not their parent, but at some point my boys will have responsibilities to a woman that I cannot get in the way of. My job until then is to disciple them.
Work: If you don’t work, you don’t eat. Work is a relationship to a company whereby I serve the company and coworkers to accomplish the company’s goals and also get paid. None of that is sinful inherently.
Church: This is the relationship to a local body of believers, under elders, united together by Christ, the head of our church, whereby we serve Him as a body of believers by worshipping Him, proclaiming the Gospel, and making disciples.
Neighbors: This is the broadest group in my category. It includes my physical neighbors, my baristas, my waiter/waitress at a restaurant, strangers . . . really any human being.
Think about this, “Does God have something to say to His children regarding each of these categories?” The answer? Yes, of course! And His commands are specific enough I must follow them faithfully.
Often when we think of priorities we list them. Most important to least important. Most important requires most attention and least important is often viewed as “If I get around to it, but no worries if I don’t.” This may work for ranking cleaning the bathroom compared to pulling weeds at the house, but in God’s world, He asks we be faithful to the responsibilities given to us.
What if, instead of thinking about them ranked as:
- Family (kids and parents and in-laws and sibilings)
What if we thought about them like this:
Wife – family – Work – Church – Neighbors
Instead of viewing the list as hierarchical, we think of them as equal or on the same plane?
CAVEAT: Now, most people will say, “My spouse is the most important ministry / person in this world.” Answer, I agree! But, and this doesn’t demean my wife, my wife does not prevent me from being faithful to my other responsibilities. Each of these categories has unique responsibilities, some of them should only shared with one person. For example, sex is only for my wife. Some responsibilities transcend and overlap every relationship – “Do not look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil 2:4). This verse says a lot, at minimum it says, “Other people need to be important to you because you are called to serve them.”
Think of this list like a freightliner hauling products across the ocean. The weight must be evenly distributed to maintain proper sailing during the weather. These priorities need to be kept in balance. Loving my wife requires church relationships, encouraging and leading my family to have similar relationships, and being involved in the church. We set ourselves up for failure when we say things like, “I have to love my wife, so we’re not involved in church-y stuff.” Most of us get this when it comes to work, if we ditch work all the time because we want to spend time with our spouse, and then make no money and provide no income, then we are not loving our household. Obviously all of us can think of bad situations because someone has these priorities out of whack. Spending all your free time with your church family and not your wife would be sinful too. If “loving your spouse” prevents you from serving in the church, then something is amiss too. There are no loopholes in Scripture allowing the neglect of some commands because of another relationship. God’s commands to us are, in many ways to be viewed equal.
What specific responsibilities has the Lord given me in each relationship? Or ask it this way, “What will I be held accountable for in my worship to Him?” All of these commands listed rest on a common bedrock that include, but not limited to some common commands. In every relationship these should be a priority:
Common Foundational responsibilities
First, be a peacemaker. Matthew 5:9, “Blesses are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” I want every person to have peace with God. Second, I want to be at peace with every person. This means in every relationship, I want to encourage and lead you to Christ. If sin should get in the way, I want to pursue peace with you so we are forgiven and restored.
Second, every relationship requires humility. Serving other like Christ serves us. We need to view others as important, more important than ourselves. This means every human being is valuable and worthy of involvement. My barista may be the person who provides the caffeine, so I can do the adulting thing, but he or she is not a tool. He or she is a human being and he or she matters to us.
Third, every relationship requires love. Love is an action (1 Corinthians 13). I serve each person with the desire to do what is good for him and her in their following Christ. This means many actions are on the table and may be required: encouragement, help, and / or admonishing the person. An important characteristic, needing to be remembered and followed is long-suffering. People are not always going to respond how I think they should (hopefully my desire is biblical). Therefore be patient. Be more about the process than the results. Leave the results up to the Lord.
A husbands must learn, love, and lead his wife.
- “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7) (Understanding here means, “grow in knowledge”).
- “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (Ephesian 5:25-27).
- Lead – “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24).
A wife must submit, respect, and help her husband.
- Notice Ephesians 5:22, “Wives be subject to your own husband.” (I know submit is a dirty word in our culture. All of us serve in God’s hierarchy and are required to submit to His will regarding those relationships (work, government, and house).
- Respect, “Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33)
- God designed wives to be a suitable helper to her husband, “The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him.”
- We are in charge of our children “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2
- “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise), 3 SO THAT IT MAY BE WELL WITH YOU, AND THAT YOU MAY LIVE LONG ON THE EARTH.”
- Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”
- “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; 6 not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” (Eph 6:5-6) (This includes honoring your boss – even if he or she is an idiot).
- “With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, 8 knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free.” (Ephesiand 6:7-8; see also Col 3:22-4:1).
- Your reputation at work should be one of integrity, hard work, dedication, and on time.
- Look up every one another passage, they apply to your church family.
- All believers are called to faithful, long-lasting ministry: “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way. 10 For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Heb 6:9-12)
- Regular attendance, “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Heb 10:25)
- We should know people in the church well enough to minister to them: “let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,” (Heb 10:24). By the way, this means we should spend time outside of church service praying for, serving, and encouraging other believers!
- Be the good Samaritan. God call us to serve His children (Luke 10:30-37)
- Be an ambassador for Christ, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”(2 Cor. 5:20-21)
- Be hospitable, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Heb 13:2)
Obviously each of these could be unpacked more. But for now this is a good starting point. Lord willing this would at minimum help us prioritize our life in a way that honors the Lord. Our guys have found this very helpful, especially in discipling young believers who didn’t grow up in a “Christian home.” There are verses left out, that is not intentional, but it does behoove all of us to be experts at serving one another according to God’s design for us.