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What the Bible says about Prioritizing
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 14:26

Some who read this have been to the Feast and thus look forward to eight days of experiencing many enjoyable things: food, drink, activities, spending time with friends, and of course, the spiritual meals of eating and drinking in of God's instructions. Many sermons over the years have been preached about prioritizing our time and activities throughout the Feast, keeping God first over the physical abundance and events that can often relegate Him to second place. Some may have justified a physical approach to the Feast from an immature understanding of God's command in Deuteronomy 14:26, using the time and money God provides for the Feast as a vacation with friends and family, rather than an eight-day, spiritual-information-packed, learning experience.

God wants us to experience both the spiritual and the physical abundance that foreshadows the time when we will live and reign with God during His Millennial rest and on into His eternal Kingdom. However, we need to prioritize and balance our wants and needs with God's expectations—especially so during this short period of plenty when it seems we do not need God as much as we normally do.

God notices how we treat this eight-day period and assesses our actions to see if we really feel we do not need Him as much during this time of plenty versus the rest of the year when our daily struggles require His involvement in our lives. We may see the Feast as a time of fun activities, which is partially true, but it may expose how we would live if God were to bless us financially or how we would govern if He were to give us exalted positions in His Family.

Staff
Whatever Your Heart Desires

Psalm 24:3-4

These two brief verses broadly cover conduct, motivation, attitude, and prioritizing one's life. To meet these qualifications requires "truth in the inward parts" (Psalm 51:6). A deceitful heart will never meet the standards because it does not operate from a foundation of godly integrity. David says in verse 5 that, humanly, he was shaped in iniquity. God, with our cooperation through faith, is ultimately the Creator of a pure heart in us, but it is a protracted process achieved by imparting a holy nature by His Spirit. This unites us with a holy Christ, with whom we fellowship, washing us in the blood of the Lamb so that with His aid we can mortify the flesh and live toward God, giving Him first priority in everything.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part 6: The Pure in Heart

Psalm 90:12

The phrase "number our days" expresses the thought of putting in order, arranging the use of, or prioritizing time because the end of one's life is fast approaching. Moses wanted us to remember that our remaining number of days grows smaller each day.

He reminds us because we rarely make a conscious relationship between sin and our mortality. We are so busy living for the moment that we fail to see a connection between our conduct and our finite lifespan. Moses appeals for help that we might be wise and live by faith. Proverbs 4:5-6 urges us, "Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you." Because it bears so profoundly upon our accountability to God, using time properly may be the greatest of wisdom.

Romans 13:11-12 carries this thought down to our day, expressing the urgency of our situation:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!

Proverbs 31:8-9

Basically, God says here, "Go to bat for the disadvantaged." However, He admonishes us to judge righteously.

We know that there are people in the world who, perhaps because they have too much time, money, or guilt on their hands, make it their duty to become advocates for various causes, often doing it without regard for the possible consequences. They may think they are supporting something that is good, but they sometimes never think through what their support might mean and what will result from it. If many of the causes out there were actually followed through to the end, we would be living in a socialist or communist state, and no one would like it. Nobody would be free.

Jesus says, "The poor you will always have with you." Because that is the case, the question then becomes, "How best can we help them?" Remember Martha and Mary and what Jesus had to say to Martha? "Martha, you are getting overwrought about all this. But Mary has chosen the better thing" (Luke 10:38-42 paraphrased). Jesus is teaching that there is a point at which service and good works become a distraction and a worry, crowding out the higher duties of listening to Him.

Thus, we need to remember that, even though we want to do good works, they will never save us. They are a fruit of righteousness. They are not the ultimate goal or the end. They just show that we have inculcated into us part of God's character, and the natural outgrowth of that is good works (see Ephesians 2:10).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
"If I Have Not Charity"

Matthew 6:33

Here the term righteousness has the sense of seeking all of God's spiritual blessings, favor, image, and rewards. We see in this verse not only a broad New Testament application of the term but also, more importantly, its priority to life. This dovetails perfectly with the hunger-and-thirst metaphor in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:6). It is not enough to ambitiously yearn to accomplish. According to Jesus, God's Kingdom and His righteousness are the very top priorities in all of life. Seeking God's righteousness is that important.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness

Matthew 13:7

Jesus is not saying that the cares of this life and riches are intrinsically evil; they are neutral. However, involvement in or pursuit of them may be easily overdone and cause great spiritual loss. He is warning people with too many interests. The most important interests, the spiritual ones, almost invariably get crowded out.

Even a person heavily involved in charitable works may be misusing time (Luke 10:40-42). Another may be so intent on his business that he is too tired to study or pray effectively, or for that matter, to think of anything else. Such a person—one who should heed Jesus' warning—has allowed other things to control his life.

In many cases, our worst enemies are not the obviously bad things, but the necessary and even the good things which we allow to be overdone. In athletics, is not the second best athlete always the strongest enemy of the first? So it is in prioritizing. Much of the time, our chief problem is a lack of commitment to the highest priority; we allow the secondary priorities to steal time from the primary one.

Consider the man in the parable of Luke 12:20-21:

But God said to him, "You fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?" So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

He was a fool because he did not have enough understanding and character to know when enough is enough. In his lust for more, he burned up his time on lower priority concerns and neglected building character.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!

Matthew 13:22-23

In Matthew 13:22-23, the only difference between the seed sown among weeds and the seed sown on good soil is in the action of the hearer. Both heard the Word, but only one acts on what he hears. Think about this. The seed sown on good soil could easily be overcome and choked out by weeds if action were to become inaction. What if spiritual laziness sets in?

What would happen if, say, a man has a vegetable garden and next to this garden is a small patch of kudzu? He cannot spray it with a herbicide because of the danger of it drifting onto his plants. What should he do? He must go out every day to monitor the situation and take whatever action is appropriate. Perhaps he needs to cut the kudzu back, or maybe it will be okay for another day.

The point is that the gardener must stir himself to be diligent. What happens if he tries to manage the kudzu from his bed or from the easy chair in front of his television? In a few weeks, he would go out to pick some red, ripe, juicy tomatoes and find that, not only does he not have any tomatoes, but he does not even have a garden!

The biblical term for someone who is spiritually inactive, or even asleep, is Laodicean! What Revelation 3:14-18 describes as a Laodicean is nothing more than a Christian choked by weeds. The Laodicean knows that kudzu is out there, but his attitude is lethargic. "I'll get to it later," he says. "My favorite show is coming on!" The Laodicean says in verse 17, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing." What did Christ say the weeds were? The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of this life!

Every day we have to "hoe" our spiritual garden. Prayer and Bible study we all understand about—we know how necessary they are to Christian growth. But we need to go even further and fight, root out, the weeds. Is that television show, novel, movie, or sportscast an entanglement? Are we spending too much time trying to "make it" or "get ahead" or "keep up with the Joneses"? Do we allow ourselves to become easily sidetracked by "little things"? While sleeping late instead of getting up early to pray, is kudzu creeping over our fruit?

Ask yourself, "Am I asleep?" If you know you are not asleep, ask, "Am I coasting?" You may find that you have allowed other pursuits to crowd out higher, spiritual priorities. If so, you need to wade into your overgrown garden and begin pulling out weeds by the fistful.

Mike Ford
Weeds!

Galatians 6:9-10

In its broader context, Galatians 6:1-10 has spiritual matters more directly in mind than physical needs. This does not deny that there are times to help out physically, but the chapter begins with, "If one sees a brother in a fault. . . ." This the real foundation of the charge in verses 9 and 10. It is concerned primarily with spiritual matters, where the church's problems really lie. The church's problems are spiritual in nature.

In terms of the ministry, from the top of the administration on down, its emphasis must be on "feeding the flock." If there is a spiritual problem within the church, and we are charged first with taking care of the church, then it means that the administration of the church has to shift gears and take care of that spiritual problem first. It has first priority, not the preaching of the gospel to the world.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)

Ephesians 5:16

Redeem means "to buy up for oneself" or "buy up an opportunity." When connected to "time," it means "to buy or take advantage of an opportunity." Since we are dealing with time, and it inexorably passes on, we must make the most of each opportunity. If an opportunity is missed, it cannot be recalled.

Paul might as well be saying, "God's way is not just for a few hours on a Sabbath, but the will of the Lord applies in every situation in life." He is urging us to take advantage of every situation to imitate God. Every second of our lives is precious in the building of godly character.

This has nothing to do with literally gaining time. It may be illustrated, though, with the example of the savvy merchant who takes advantage of every opportunity to make a profit. Businessmen often say, "Strike while the iron is hot." Or, in our consumer culture, we watch the advertisements to take advantage of a sale.

How can we determine how to take advantage of time? In much the same way we take advantage of a sale. We decide what we want and then we watch carefully. If we want to buy a product, we will generally survey the market and then decide which particular brand and model we want to buy. Then we keep a careful watch until the sale of our choice occurs.

Likewise, we must survey what is controlling our time and we must decide what is important to us. Is it our relationship with God, family, job, socializing, recreation, or entertainments? In what order of priority would we put these and other interests? Next, we must survey each of the major categories more specifically and insert particular activities into them. This is very important because the "small" activities drain most of our time away almost unnoticed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!

Colossians 3:2

Paul is telling us where the focus of our attention needs to be. We can give our minds over to a lot of things, for instance, to our jobs - and there is a place for that. We can give our minds over to physical things - exercise, eating well, and so forth - and there is a place for these, too.

Indeed, humans need to set their minds on many things, but they need to be prioritized correctly - put into the right niche and position. Then each of these things has to be seen in relation to the Kingdom of God. Our priorities must be set according to this standard - the overriding goal of our Christian lives.

"Set your mind on things above" adjusts the focus of our attention so that we do not become distracted by things that are less important for any longer than needed, so that they occupy the right proportion and amount of time in our lives.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Titus 2:11-14


 




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