"Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."—Matthew 6:33.
We hear much these days about priorities. A few months ago the word was rarely ever used. To many it was comparatively unknown. The war has brought several new words into common usage which formerly had no particular appeal. It was so in connection with the last war. I recall very well being a witness in a lawsuit involving a will which was protested by the other side as a forgery. It was supposed to be an instrument conveying all the property of one brother to another. The widow had a will dated a few days earlier and her brother-in-law was endeavoring to take everything from her. As the trial progressed things began to look very dark, so far as the widow was concerned. The brother-in-law appeared to have an "iron-clad" case until it came to the last few minutes of cross-questioning by the attorney for the plaintiff, who put the defendant through a very thorough examination as to minute details connected with his contention that the will he had presented was not only valid but was the latest instrument given by his brother. The denouement was as striking as it was unexpected.
When he was asked to explain the circumstances under which the testament which he offered for probate had come to him, he declared that on a given date in 1912 his brother had come into his office and handed him the will, saying, "I have already given another will to my wife in order to keep her in good humor, but that was just a bit of camouflage. I am leaving everything to you." The widow's lawyer questioned him very definitely, inquiring, "Are you giving us the exact words used by your brother, or are you simply giving us the gist of them as you understood them?" He answered, "I am telling you exactly what my brother said. He told me that the first will was only a bit of camouflage and that all was to come to me." Again the defendant's lawyer inquired, "Is there any word in your testimony that you would like to change?" Rather angrily, the other replied, "No, sir; I have told you exactly what my brother said." Then, after a moment's silence, the attorney for the widow inquired, "Was your brother in the habit of using the word camouflage in 1912?" The effect upon everyone in the courtroom, including the probate judge, was electric. Everybody realized that the man had been trapped, for no one in the United States was in the habit of using the word camouflage before the World War which began in 1914. The case was soon decided in favor of the widow.
From the time the United States entered into the present world war and our vast resources were lined up behind our army, navy, and air force it was recognized that the government should have first claim upon all needful metals, and other things required. The priority rightfully belonged there. If civilian manufacturers or others desire a supply of any such materials they must apply for a special priority through the proper channels, otherwise they cannot obtain them. This we all recognize is as it should be. The war must come first. Other things can follow after.
However, we may also speak of divine priorities for just as in regard to many of the things which we have thought essential to our happiness in days gone by we recognize governmental priorities, so we need to realize that in all things our first duty and responsibility is to God Himself. The Old Testament prophets were constantly stressing the law of divine priorities. I wonder what the Shunamite woman thought when Elijah the prophet applied to her for room and board! She explained that her little store of food was almost gone; there was but a small quantity of meal in the bottom of the barrel and a little oil to mix with it. She was going to do a last baking for herself and her son and then there would be nothing left. But Elijah, the man of God, said, "Make me a cake first." One could imagine her exclaiming, "What, make you a cake first! you a stranger, when I and my son have so little left!" And the answer might well have been, "Yes, it is a question of priorities. Henceforth you are to run a boarding-house for God. Put God first and He will look after you and your needs." So off she went and did as she was bidden, and lo, she had more than enough as long as the famine lasted and the prophet remained as her guest. She gave God the first place and He in turn honored her faith and saw that she did not come to want. He will never be anyone's debtor. It is just a picture of what He will do for all of us when we give Him the first place in our lives, in other words, when we recognize the importance of divine priorities.
Our Lord Jesus insisted on this again and again. We too often fail to put first things first, to recognize the importance of honoring God above everything else. We fuss with one another and we allow all kinds of trivial things to come in to destroy our fellowship with each other. We take offense and bear grudges and then wonder why our prayers are not answered and why we miss the blessing of God in our lives. The Lord Jesus said, "If you come to the altar and remember your brother has aught against you, first go and be reconciled to thy brother, then come and offer thy gift." That is the law of divine priorities. First get right with men in order that you may be right with God, Again, in the matter of judging our brother, we are told in the Word of God to judge ourselves, and we are warned against judging others; yet we generally reverse this. We are so busy judging others that we do not have time to judge ourselves. The Lord Jesus said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?" (Matthew 7:1-3). The verse might be rendered, "Why beholdest thou the splinter that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the log that is in thine own eye?" When we get before the mirror of God's Word, we can see clearly to get the log out of our own eye, and then we may decide that after all there was no splinter at all in our brother's eye. The fault was entirely with us.
Sometimes we hear preachers criticizing the efforts of others; church workers, Sunday-school workers, gospel singers belittle those engaged in similar services. They can see no value in what others are attempting to do for Christ. No wonder there is so little blessing in their own ministry. If we have the glory of our blessed Lord before us, we shall not be judging and finding fault with those who are preferred before us, but rather we shall obey the word that says, "In honor, preferring one another." Christ must have the priority in our lives if we are to be vessels unto honor, sanctified and meet for the Master's use.
Paul was overjoyed at the response of the churches of Macedonia when he sought to raise funds for ministering to the famine-stricken believers in Judaea. He says, "They first gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us by the will of God." There you have the recognition of divine priorities. These Macedonian believers said, as it were, "All we have and are belongs to Christ, and therefore to you as His representative. Now tell us what to do, and we will gladly obey." If the people of the United States are willing to do without many things in order to win this war, surely we as Christians should be more than willing to let God have His way in our lives in order that we may get the gospel out to a lost world.
Remember, too, the word of the Apostle Paul in regard to Christian young people. Many of them are serving the Lord faithfully and endeavoring to do His will, but, sad to say, there are many others who do not give God His rightful place in their lives and yet make a great profession. The Word says, "Let them first learn to show piety at home" (1 Timothy 5:4). Some can be very pious at church but very thoughtless at home. Some are very pleasant when out in company, but they can be so unpleasant in the bosom of their own family, where, above all places, they should be shining for Christ. I know it is true that often the home is the place where we seem to get the fur rubbed the wrong way. When one young girl said to an evangelist, "I find it so hard to live for God at home; they always rub the fur the wrong way," he answered, "Well, my dear young sister, why not turn around?" That is, just give way and do not fight back, and you will be surprised to find how easy it is to get along.
Christianity is not just repeating John 3:16 or Acts 16:31; it is yielding the heart and the life to Christ. "For the time is come when judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?" (I Peter 4:17). We are called to a life of devotedness. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." Recognize the divine priorities.
What is the real trouble in our country today? Is it not just this, that we have not given God His rightful place in our national life, and so His chastening rod is upon us? We have put money-making and pleasure-seeking first. We have said, "I want to live my own life," and the result has been ruin and disaster. Oh, for a national return to God and His Word, a recognition of the divine priorities!
Put first things first in your life. Give God the priority in your home, in connection with your talents, your service, everything that occupies you. If you thus seek Him first, He guarantees to stand back of you and never let you fall. Recognize the divine priorities and you will enter into a life of blessing such as you have never known before.