Martin Wiles: First Things First
On November 21, 2015, I experienced another first.
Firsts are important. On this day, two of my cousins brought a mahogany china cabinet to our home. The reason it was a first was not that it’s the first one I’ve ever owned but because it was the first piece of furniture my mom ever bought with her own money. She purchased it to hold china she planned to purchase as a part of setting up housekeeping with my dad.
But Uncle Sam had given Dad a call, and he and Mom would be going to Oklahoma. Mom gave the china cabinet to her sister to hold for her because she had no room for it there. Somehow, my aunt never returned the piece of furniture to Mom.
Many years later, my aunt died, and her children, knowing the piece really belonged to Mom, called to see if she wanted it. Having remarried—and now boasting several more china cabinets—Mom told them she wanted it . . . but to give it to me, the oldest of her sons. My wife and I had less room than Mom, but not wanting to forego the chance to own a “first,” we squeezed it in.
Knowing the human heart’s tendency toward selfishness, Jesus spoke several times about firsts. When asked what the greatest commandment was, He said to put God first.
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”~Matthew 22:37 NIV
On this occasion, He corrected His disciples who argued about which one of them was the greatest. Jesus said it was the one who was willing to become a servant.
My most important first was August 31, 1960—the day I sucked my first breath of outside air and entered this world. The second came nine years later—the day I recognized I was a sinner and needed Jesus’ forgiveness.
Anyone who wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.~Mark 9:35 NLT
Putting first things first entails recognizing our sinful bent, asking Jesus to forgive our sins, and committing our lives to him. Without this first, other firsts will hold little if any value. This first first should lead to a second first: humility. Jesus’ disciples wanted to rule, but Jesus reminded them firstness came from serving not lording. Pride gets us nowhere with God—or others. On the other hand, God praises humility—and others normally do too.
When we love God above all other people and things, serving becomes much easier. Jesus says we’ll be rewarded if we offer a mere cup of cold water to someone in His name. We serve God by adopting a servant mindset. We achieve firstness by serving, even though it might appear we’re not first at all.
Amid the many things that clamor for your attention, ask God to help you put first things first.
Father God, as I set priorities in life, guide me to put first things first: You, my family, my church, and others.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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