What are the things that vie most for your time and affections? Family? Hobbies? Work?
The truth is that we all have things that rise to the top of the heap at different times. This is the nature of life and our attempts to balance all of the different parts of it. Amidst the pressures and pleasures of life, however, God calls us to keep Him first. In Exodus 20:3, we read that we are to have no other gods before Him. While we would not consider our jobs, kids, spouse, or possessions gods in the classic sense, there is a real sense in which these are often raised to first place in our lives even to the detriment of our worship and dependence on God.
In Mark 10:17-30, we read the story of a young man who by all accounts was a model example of what it means to love God and follow Him. Because of his devotion and desire to be right with God, he approached Jesus and asked what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life. Jesus responded that he needed to keep the commandments. The young man affirmed his adherence to them, but Jesus points out what one thing he lacks. He has elevated his love for his money above his love for God. His possessions have displaced God from the set of affection in His heart. So then, Jesus tells him to sell all he has and to follow him. The man, unwilling to do so walks away sad.
The temptation for us is to make this story
about the evils of wealth. The reality is that wealth is not the main point of
the story. For this young man, his wealth was indeed his competing God, but
that doesn’t let us off the hook. The point was, he loved something more than
he loved the Lord. When viewed clearly, we are all that young man. Maybe for us
it isn’t wealth, but maybe we put our family, or job, or spouse, or hobbies
before God. We spend our time, money, energies, and affections on these things
so much that what we have to offer God is the leftovers or perhaps nothing at
all.What then is the message of the story? It is a corrective to challenge the
gods of our lives that tempt us to offer our worship to them instead of to God.
The story reminds us that to love God and keep him first is to remember that he loves us most. We, his adopted, redeemed children in Christ, are the apple of His eye. He gave himself to restore and save us.
It also points out that just one thing can keep us from God’s best. Replacing him with anything else – even something good – keeps us from His best for us. Lastly it reminds us to follow through and fight for the relationship we so greatly desire. Because we love God most, we must continue to keep Him first. Nothing is so important to the enemy than to drive a wedge between the savior and ourselves. Since he cannot change the love of Christ for us, he attacks our hearts and seeks to grow our affections for other things. In doing so, he doesn’t ask us to love Jesus less, he instead causes us to love other things more so that we never perceive the reordering of our lives in such a way that Christ is removed from his position.
So, what do you love more than God? Are you actively seeking to keep it in its proper place so that your affections for God are first in your heart? Are you willing to give it up or lay it down for His sake? How would your life be different with God in His rightful place? What does God want to do in and through you, but can’t until you love Him most?