Priorities Are Worship:
How Priorities Reveal God
In those days there was
no king in
every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Judges
At first glance, the title of this article appears strange in both syntax and meaning; but think about it and I'm sure you'll see that priorities are worship. For example a person who claimed to want to serve the Lord Jesus Christ but spent 3/4 of their waking hours standing before a mirror putting on makeup, then spent the other 1/4 of their time eating would be easily dismissed as one whose priorities proved that the only god they truly worshipped was the one they saw in the mirror. Since worship is nothing more than showing God how we feel about Him, the priorities we choose are the essence of our true worship of God, all formalities notwithstanding.
The example above is so perfectly clear and indisputable because the Bible makes it a priority to define God's priorities. Even though there might be serious dispute about what the Bible teaches about God's priorities, no one would teach that the Bible wants people to make it a priority to spend all their time looking into a mirror or feeding their faces.
That agreed we are still left with finding some understanding and agreement about what the Bible teaches about God's priorities if we want to make it a priority to worship the God of the Bible together in Spirit and in Truth.
IMPORTANCE OF PRIORITIES
All it takes for Christians to become the principle agents of hell and death and destruction is for Christians to do as the Pharisees of Jesus Christ's time did and ignore what the bible teaches about God's priorities. We can learn everything else the Bible teaches yet if we fail to understand what the Bible teaches about God's priorities, it will be worse than learning nothing about God at all.
It will be worse because people who know nothing about God can do nothing to deceive people about God because their ignorance of God will be self-evident to any observer. It is the people who look and act and think they know about God but in fact do not understand God's priorities--people like the Pharisees--that literally lead the whole world astray. For this reason, Jesus Christ made His primary enemies on earth the Pharisees, who were thought by the world to be servants of God but who actually failed to follow God's priorities at all and ended up crucifying and killing God incarnate.
GOD'S PRIORITIES EXPLAINED BY GOOD SAMARITAN
Jesus Christ did everything words can do to use the story of the Good Samaritan to explain God's priorities so any person can understand them.
Luke begins the story like this:
Luke 10:25And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 26He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? 27And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. 28And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. 29But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? (It is most significant that this encounter with a lawyer is very similar to another encounter with a lawyer recorded in Matthew 22: 35ff. The similarity in the two passages is seen that Jesus Christ gave essentially the same answer in both places. The only difference in the passages was the question asked. In the Matthew passage the lawyer asked, "Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law." The second questioner specified what the first questioner only implied when he asked What shall I do to inherit eternal life. Both questions were designed to get Jesus Christ to talk about God's priorities. Both lawyers were trying to get Jesus Christ to commit himself to answering the most important question that can be asked to God: What should I do first?
DEFINITION OF NEIGHBOR SECOND IN IMPORTANCE ONLY TO DEFINITION OF GOD
The man had to ask Jesus to define his neighbor because, even though every "expert in the law" knew what it meant to love God, there was then, as there is now, some lack of certainty about the referent for the word "neighbor." The lawyer knew that how Jesus Christ defined neighbor would determine whether Jesus Christ could be accused of a crime against God.
Christians today have fallen into a trap the lawyer originally tried to spring on Jesus Christ. People don't think about the question that was asked Jesus that day so long ago. Everybody knows who our neighbor is. If there is any doubt, all we have to do is open a dictionary and we'll find our definition: "a person who lives near another…a fellow man; as, love thy neighbor…any person…" (Webster's Unabridged).
False Definition of Neighbor Is At Root Of Christian Failure To Understand or Obey God's Priorities
Jesus Christ did not define neighbor the way the dictionary does. One of the fundamental causes of our social disintegration can be traced to the fact that Christians do not understand how Jesus defined neighbor. Not only did Jesus' definition of neighbor not make it into our dictionaries, neither did it make it into our churches or our hearts. To prove what I'm saying, ask people who call themselves Christians how they define neighbor and they will give you the dictionary definition, not Jesus' definition. And the name of Jesus is blasphemed today because of it.
When asked, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus defined the word, not by looking in a dictionary, but by telling a story, a story about a Good Samaritan. It is a story so well known that hardly anyone actually thinks about the meaning of the story anymore. Like Little Red Riding Hood and Chicken Little and Humpty Dumpty, the story Jesus told has become a part of our folklore and like much of our folklore the original meaning of the story has been utterly forgotten by us folks.
Read the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke -37). Jesus did not say our neighbor was the person who lived near us; Jesus did not say our neighbor was everyone or anyone who lived on the planet. Jesus said our neighbor was the person dying in the ditch. Jesus did everything words can do to explain it was that dying person who qualified for the name "neighbor." Furthermore, Jesus made it clear that the only person who loved their neighbor was the person who stopped and helped that person dying in the ditch.
Do you think Jesus had no specific meaning to communicate when he chose a person who was dying as the referent for the word neighbor? Do you think it was merely coincidence that he chose a dying person as his example of what the word neighbor means? Do you believe we could just as easily substitute any other person for the example chosen by Jesus Christ and we would still be obedient to God's definition of priorities? If you think that, you must think that Jesus Christ tossed words around with no more care for their meaning than a child learning to talk.
No Christian would blaspheme the Lord Jesus Christ like that.
It's No Excuse, but…
What the Bible teaches about priorities is hard to understand, so hard, in fact, that some people cannot grasp them at all. I Cor 2:4But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But almost everybody can understand just enough about priorities to get them in danger of being sent to hell by God. Anyone who can count and understand simple arithmetic understands enough about priorities to be held accountable for refusing to obey God's definition of priorities. For example, go through the Bible and notice the myriad times you see the words first, last, second, etc. All those number words are signals that priorities are being discussed. If you can’t tell the difference between first and last, or one and two, you won’t have a clue about anything the Bible is trying to teach about priorities. Since most people learn to count and learn simple arithmetic, failure to learn arithmetic is not what makes understanding God’s priorities difficult.
WHERE BIBLICAL THEORY BECOMES DISCIPLESHIP OBEDIENCE
NO MEANING WITHOUT APPLICATION
Look around and see how today's Christian leaders stand up under the scrutiny of God's word. What you will see about the priorities chosen by Christian leaders will help you understand how confusion and fear came to rule this generation of Christians. To say it another way, all this talk about priorities is without meaning until we see how the talk is applied in action. Words can lie but actions speak loud and clear. It is at the point of application through action that what we really believe about God's priorities is revealed.
To put things in perspective, let's start at the top. Take for example President George W. Bush and all those Christian leaders who hold him up as an example of appropriately applied Biblical priorities.
Does President George W. Bush act like he has a priority to protect the least among us who are dying the way he would want his life, or the lives of his daughters, to be protected?
Abortion Not In the Bush Story
The cover story of Newsweek for the
But listen to the Christian leaders and teachers of this nation and you will hear the most well established (read well-funded) leaders holding President George W. Bush up as a political leader who embodied Biblical priorities. Virtually the entire Christian establishment has rallied behind #43 as the epicenter from which God's will on earth is emanating.
I can already hear throngs of Christians complaining, "How dare Neal Horsley say President Bush is not defending the unborn. Didn't he sign the bill protecting the victims of abortion who are born alive!"
about what is happening! The President
me amplify this point with evidence. Flipping through the TV channels the week
What I have to now say about Chuck Colson is hard for me to say because Chuck Colson helped me receive many wonderful opportunities to study Scripture and to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and I love him because He is my brother in the Lord Jesus Christ. (This link expands the point for those who need those details). But this article is about God's priorities so I would dishonor my duty to the Lord to ignore it when Chuck Colson violates God's priorities. When Jerry Falwell and Chuck Colson held Bush up as a good example of a Christian leader they projectile vomited lies that did as much to confuse people about God's priorities as anything anybody could have done. Bush is no more an example of Christian priorities than Bin Laden is an example of Christian evangelism.
WHAT IT MEANS TO BE BUSH-WHACKED
BUSH SUPPOSED TO BE THE WATCHMAN
"But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood." Ezekiel 33.
is to be held accountable for the priorities he reveals in this nation. As President of the
Bush reveals his God by the priorities he chooses; so do we all. The priorities President George W. Bush is revealing to the world are exactly the priorities the world understands all too well. As Jesus Christ did in Matthew 25, Bush is showing the world that he is identifying with a particular group of people. But is Bush identifying with the least among us as Jesus Christ commanded?
George W. Bush is identifying with the least among the children of the people
who stir the political cauldron in the
all the born citizens in the
Look closely and if you have eyes that see you will see that the priorities Bush is revealing have absolutely nothing to do with the priorities Jesus Christ commanded His people to implement as their living worship of God. Bush reveals the priorities of this world. As they had done with previous "Christian" Presidents, when Christian leaders allowed George W. Bush and the world to believe that Bush represented the priorities of Jesus Christ, this generation of Christians was taken into captivity, into slavery to sin.
WORDS OF JESUS CHRIST NOT TO BE IGNORED OR TWISTED
"Beware lest any man spoil you [take you into captivity, NIV] through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." Colossian 2:8
President George W. Bush is only one example of Christian leadership in this nation in this generation.
What about the other Christian leaders who head the myriad Christian organizations in this nation? Are the actions of this generation of Christians helping people understand the priorities defined by Jesus Christ?
I watch thousands
of babies being led to the slaughter in the
BIBLICAL PRIORITY PRINCIPLES
1. GOD'S PRIORITIES ARE OPPOSITE OF OUR NATURAL PRIORITIES
What makes God's priorities really hard to understand is they are the opposite of the world’s priorities. In other words, the Bible teaches that what people naturally think would be true about priorities is exactly the opposite of what God actually teaches about priorities. Jesus Christ summarized this point when He said, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.” Mathew He was saying that what the world calls first will be considered last by God and vice versa. Various other places Jesus Christ proclaims the fact that God's priorities are the opposite of the world's. Priority Principle #3 is an extensive study of the teaching Jesus gives in Matthew 25 about the importance of the "least among us."
2. GOD'S CHOICE OF PRIORITIES IS SINGLE
Not only does God turn the worlds' priorities upside down. He demands that those who serve Him choose to obey His priorities exactly or be counted among those who will be rejected by Him.
3. UNDERSTANDING GOD'S PRIORITIES REQUIRES DEFINING "LEAST"
The words Jesus Christ uses in defining God's priorities make it clear that, as far as serving human beings is concerned, God will always have only one first priority and that priority will always be the one that qualifies as the least. Since that is the case, we must make understanding "least" our first priority as well.
Least is a term from simple arithmetic. The concept of least is used in discussing an array of numbers, or a list of items of any type. In any given array there will always only be one item or number that can be accurately called the "least." (If the preceding sentence were to be given the emphasis it deserves because of the importance it has in explaining this article, the font would be eight times larger and flash different colors constantly so the words would be etched into the reader's consciousness like an implanted microbe chip.) For instance, in a list containing the numbers 2, 3, 5, 2 and 7. The single number 2 will be the least even though there are multiple instances of that number. It is that one number that will be the least in that array and there is nothing in the universe that logically or truthfully defines a different "least."
Unless we grasp the point that there can never be more than one "least" we can never hear what Jesus Christ was trying to tell us in Matthew 25. In that passage, Jesus Christ is discussing an array composed of categories or types of human beings. He tells us that as we do it unto the least in that array containing all the categories of human beings, we do it unto Him.
4. SHEEP FROM GOATS SEEN IN WHO PROTECTS THE DYING
Notice that every instance of person Jesus Christ identified with is a person who, if left untreated, will die. With the exception of the person in prison, every instance refers to physical death, not simply spiritual death. Matthew 25:31ff, " 31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
So in addition to the priority principle Jesus revealed in His story about the good Samaritan, Jesus Christ revealed another Priority Principle in Matthew 25: not only are we required to make our first priority the reaching out to people who are dying, within that category of people dying we are to reach out to the least before we reach out to any of the others. In other words, by identifying Himself with the least of these, and then by further amplifying His priorities by telling us about the Good Samaritan, Jesus Christ created a teaching that requires His obedient servants to make their first priority the protection of the least among those people who are scheduled to die today.
A simple glance at what Jesus had in mind makes His point clear. Even when people are dying and all need help, the least of them will be the most vulnerable, the most likely to die first without help. Those who are not the least are by definition better equipped than the least to fend for themselves. Of course, as soon as the least is helped, then the next least will become the least and will then be the first priority for help. After serving the least, then we go to the next least, on up the line of leasts until everyone that we can serve that day has been served in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In this definition of God's priorities, the serious intent of God to resist death and show us how to resist death is defined and clarified so that every category of human being is seen to be the object of God's desire for life. Yet at the same time God shows His concern to care for every category of human life, He makes it clear that His priorities begin with the least person who is at risk of being killed against His will.
BIBLICAL PRIORITY PRINCIPLES LEADS TO A QUESTION:
HOW DO WE HELP THE LEAST AMONG US WHO IS DYING?
The answer to the question posed above is not necessarily obvious. Since any action taken in defense of a person who is dying can carry risks, significant risks, to the person trying to help, left to settle the matter for themselves the recipe for helping the dying person will vary depending on how much risk the prospective helper is willing to face.
Jesus Christ understood that people naturally value themselves above other people. He knew that people are naturally unwilling to risk doing anything that might jeopardize their personal safety, or peace, or prosperity. Because of these things, Jesus Christ took great pains to tell His followers how exactly they were to go about helping the least among us who is dying.
THE LAW OF JESUS CHRIST
Most people have heard the following words of Jesus Christ, but most people, Christians included, have not seen their significance. " Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12
An enormously important significance must be seen in the fact that Jesus Christ called this particular saying, "…the law and the prophets." In other words, calling something "the law and the prophets" must be seen to be a signal event with startling priority significance.
You can understand the significance Jesus Christ was trying to communicate by looking at Luke 24 and analyzing there how the same "law and prophets" concept was used in other places in Scripture. Luke 24:27 "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself… " Then later in the same chapter, we are told, Luke 24:44 "And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures…"
The point should be clear: numerous examples can prove that Scripture often uses the concept of "the law" to refer to the five books understood by the Apostles to be written by Moses, and "the prophets" was often understood to refer to all the other old testament books with the exception of the "poetry books," Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes.
So when Jesus Christ called this commandment, " Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them…" the "law and the prophets" He was telling His disciples that this particular commandment was a summary statement of all the statements in the Bible designed to tell people how to treat other people.
If you didn't know it prior to reading this and you actually understand what I am trying to say, your mouth should flop open in amazement. I have just made either one of the most stupid statements you have ever heard or one of the most important. The accurate judgment of what I am doing will all depend on whether or not Jesus Christ actually found one sentence that summarizes the meaning of everything that God had tried to teach people in the Old Testament about how to treat their fellowman/woman/child.
So look at what He said. If we do unto other people the things that we would want to have done to us, will we fulfill everything God wants people to do in their relationship with other people? Examine the matter in detail and you will prove you want to obey the commandment Jesus Christ called "the law and the prophets."
In order to obey that commandment of the Lord Jesus Christ it is necessary to first put ourselves in the position of the person we are required to judge. In other words, we cannot decide what we would want men to do to us unless we put ourselves in their shoes first. For example, before we can judge a rapist, we must ask ourselves what would we want done to ourselves were we to be a rapist.
It is necessary to issue a disclaimer right here. Now obviously the Lord Jesus Christ is talking in Matt 7:12 not to a reprobate sinner but to a disciple of Jesus Christ who has access to the mind of Christ who would guide them to understand what they should do to rightly fulfill what the Lord called "the law". He is not saying do unto others as a reprobate rapist would want done unto him, but do unto the rapist as we would want done were we to be a rapist yet somehow still have access to the mind of Christ. I know this sounds strange and hard to understand. But I have seen convicts who met the Lord Jesus Christ while in prison, and I have seen those convicts decide to confess crimes they had never been convicted of because they would want others to do that for them. In that example, that unsaved sinner was saved and came to receive access to the mind of Christ and could actually understand what men "should" do to him given the crimes he had actually committed.
Even though what I am discussing is hard to get into focus and understand, we must exert whatever effort is required. To fail to do so is to break the law and to become disobedient to everything God tried to instruct His people insofar as their interactions with other people are concerned.
So when we ask ourselves what would we want to have done to us, or to make the matter even more close to home, to one of our beloved children, should such and such a situation occur, we are defining the prerequisite necessary to obey the Lord's command in Matt. 7:12.
GRADE YOUR PRIORITY OBEDIENCE
Is it not clear that the Christians who turn their heads away from the babies being killed are not implementing the priorities taught by the Lord Jesus Christ in the story of the Good Samaritan!? Instead this generation of Christians is implementing today exactly the same definition of priorities demonstrated by the Priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan.
Our Priorities Prove Who Loves Their Neighbor
Look closely at the two other people mentioned in the story who passed by the man dying in the ditch. "31And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side."
Both of those
people were the exact Jewish equivalent of Christian pastors or teachers or
elders in this nation today. Jesus made
it clear that the Priest who refused to stop and help the person dying in the
ditch did not love their neighbor. Neither did the Levite on his way to work
As we walk by the babies dying in the ditch created by the Supreme
Court of the
There is a conclusion that grows logically out of everything revealed in this article; it is a conclusion that no one should ever have to utter about a generation of Christians. But the conclusion, like all true conclusions, grows inescapably out of an accurate analysis of the evidence at hand and therefore will be said sooner or later. And the conclusion is this: As far as helping people understand God's priorities, the leaders of Christians in this generation would serve God better, like the people mentioned in the beginning of this article, spending all their time standing before a mirror putting on makeup or feeding their faces. At least then nobody would be misled into thinking they were fulfilling God's priorities!
God deliver us from such leaders!
In a world where we the people are being called upon to blow other nations--and the citizens of all gender and ages within them--to kingdom come, it would be wise to begin to implement the priorities of Jesus Christ here in this nation.
we the people do this, we are exactly like all the other nations on
earth, with one exception: we presently have the most and biggest weapons of
mass destruction. As we continue to
reveal our willingness to use these weapons of mass destruction, it will
slowly dawn on the other nations of the world that the
can avoid such an awful fate. By
protecting the literal least among us--the unborn baby from the moment of
conception--as a nation we demonstrate that we are at least here at home
attempting to implement the priorities of Jesus Christ. In so doing, He will protect the
God help us to begin to implement your priorities today!
**If you know of a Church group or civic group willing to bring Neal Horsley in to expand, amplify, or defend these ideas, please email him today. Or write him at Neal Horsley, PO Box 1081, Carrollton, Ga 30116.