There is a certain excitement about “first things.” Most of us find it easy to remember our first day at school. Our parents probably remember the first time we walked as well as the first time we talked! Can you remember the first time you led a soul to Christ, or taught a Bible class? There are several things in life that should occupy first place by virtue of our deliberate choice. One of the most important lessons we need to learn is that of exercising discrimination. So many things clamor for priority, and we need to know how to assess their value so that we do not give the first place to secondary things. Much of our trouble arises when we reverse the order and “major in minors and minor in majors.” Where are we to find guidance to help us make proper evaluations? As usual, the word of God is our all-sufficient guide. In the gospel of Matthew we discover the record of our Lord’s five-fold law of priorities. Consider them carefully.
First your brother, then your gift (Matthew 5:23-24). The devil loves to sow seeds of discord in the ranks of the redeemed. God’s work is often paralyzed and his servants are frequently powerless because of an unwillingness to seek and secure proper reconciliation with an estranged brother. No person can be right with God if he is consciously wrong with his fellow man. If the tides of God’s blessings are damned up in your life, is it because you need to “first be reconciled…”?
First the spiritual, then the temporal (Matthew 6:33). No guarantees are made by God that we will be materially blessed in proportion to our devotion to him. Even his Son, Jesus Christ, owned no real estate (Matthew 8:20), nor did he have an attractive portfolio of stocks and bonds; yet, there is no denying his spiritual wealth. God knows all about our temporal needs and is willing to supply them according to his riches in Christ Jesus (cf. Philippians 4:19).
First judge yourself, then your brother (Matthew 7:3). How blind we often are to our own faults, and how quickly we observe the faults and failings of others! In solemn words the Searcher of hearts urges us to be careful about criticizing others. How much more profitable it is to mend and restore than to criticize (cf. Galatians 6:1).
First what Christ wants, then what you want (Matthew 8:21-22). “Me first…!” How terrible, and yet how frequently we act in this way…a self-centered person going his own way instead of the Lord’s way.
First the inside, then the outside (Matthew 23:25-28). The Christian life is not just an outwardly reformed life; it is primarily an inwardly cleansed life. When the inward cleansing is thorough, the outward transformation is soon evident. God does not merely want outward profession, but first he wants inward possession.