Originally, the word “priority” was a mass noun, meaning it cannot be modified by an indefinite article and it cannot be made plural. There is only priority, not priorities, and not a top priority with lesser priorities beneath it.
From the purist vantage-point, “priorities” is an oxymoron, an incongruity. It is self-contradictory. That said, I do believe it is possible to have priority in multiple spaces if each priority is sequestered within its own region or category. I can have a priority in faith, a priority at home, and a priority at work.
Not only can I segregate my priority items in this way, the items themselves can change within their own operational sphere. My home priority this week may be to paint the kitchen whereas last week it was to repair the deck railing, or to install a light in the coat closet.
Within each life-sphere, innumerable candidates vie for our attention, each making its case for being priority in that sphere. Then the spheres themselves jockey for position atop our “to-do” list. Even within the realm of faith, we see this dance performed, and the Bible addresses the issue for us, telling us “first” this and then “first” that.
Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts – 2 Peter 3:3-4, NASB
Knowing the mockers will come calls us to alert status. Scoffers make light those things that are anything but. The scoffers mocked Noah for building his ark, but thought differently when the floodwaters came. The scoffers mocked the prophets of God, and were carried off to Babylonian exile as their city burned.
Pay no heed to the mockers as they call what is good evil and what is evil good.
You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. – Matthew 23:26, NASB
It is easy to focus on externals, on behavior modification. Do this. Don’t do that. Such an approach to our faith is not only unnecessary, it is counterproductive. Jesus’ teachings are replete with calls to cleanse our hearts. The apostle Paul calls us to renew our minds. When our hearts and minds are pure, our hands and feet will follow.
…but they first gave themselves to the Lord – 2 Corinthians 8:5b, NASB
We give in many ways. We give of our time, our talents, our resources. These are important offerings, but they need to come from one who is fully surrendered to God. It is this qualifier that allowed the Macedonian believers (the “they” in this verse) to give so sacrificially amid their severe difficulties.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. – 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NASB
This triad of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the gospel message. All that we say, and all that we do needs to point back to this core message.
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, – 1 Timothy 2:1, NASB
The senior pastor at my home church family attended a meeting where he was seated next to a woman he did not know. As each introduced themselves, the woman learned that he pastored where he did. “Oh!” she exclaimed. “You’re with that praying church.” Every church should be “that praying church.” What a blessing it is to be publicly known as “that praying church.”
We noted above that each sphere has its priority. Now we see that one sphere is priority over all spheres.
But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33, NASB
From the lips of Jesus, if I make seeking the kingdom and righteousness of God my priority, everything else falls into place. When I fail to seek the kingdom and righteousness of God, placing other matters in that priority position, it does not go well for me.
I find myself in the role of Martha, pouring myself into tasks that may be wonderful tasks, but that distract me from the priority. What may be a good thing is not the best thing.
But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’ – Luke 10:41-42, NASB
Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, brothers and sisters. Everything else is just window dressing.