Matthew 10:37-39 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
It’s all about priorities. Jesus isn’t telling us not to love our parents or our children, He’s telling us to love Him more. And He’s not telling us not to love ourselves, at least to the point of taking good care of ourselves and being content with what we’ve got. Rather, He’s telling us to love Him more than we love physical life itself. There’s a linguistic trap there, because He is eternal life, (John 14:6) so loving Him is loving life, but it isn’t our own life, it’s the life that only He can give us. Humanists say many things that sound very good and noble about loving and interacting with each other, but if we don’t love God above and beyond all of that, it falls apart and becomes meaningless. To use Jesus’ turn of phrase, we lose our lives. Some very well-meaning people have turned this teaching around and perverted it, denying that a pastor’s “first flock” is his own family. I have heard some real horror tales of missionaries essentially abandoning their own children to “serve the Lord.” I somehow don’t think God receives such “service.” Closer to home, (for most people) many pastors get so busy with church that they lose their marriage, not to mention the love and respect of their children. We forget that serving the church does not necessarily equal serving God. And of course, this isn’t limited to “clergy.” You couldn’t count how many people have lost their families through being too wrapped up in their work, or for that matter, have lost their spouse through being too wrapped up in their children. It is only when Jesus is Lord indeed, first in every decision and every circumstance, that all the rest of it falls into place.
As a pastor myself, I face this issue constantly, in myself and in those I serve. So long as I serve God through serving people, I’m OK. It’s when I serve people instead of serving God that I get into trouble. A continuing issue for me is the use of time. That is specifically applicable here, because we measure life by time. So long as I insist that time is mine, I lose the benefit of it. When I willingly give time to my Lord, I gain it, because His purposes for me are fulfilled and I receive the satisfaction and rewards that He intends for me. I deal with that every day! I tend to be a stickler for being on time, and get very irritated when I am forced to be late for something. If I really give my life, my time, to God, then such things shouldn’t bother me! The other day my bad attitude was on display when I was pointed out as the reason the City Christmas program wasn’t starting on time, when it was an unrealistic schedule that I hadn’t set. I was hanging onto my life/time and not taking up my cross! It’s easy for me to see mistaken priorities in others, but not so easy in myself. I sometimes recognize my errors in retrospect, but I want to avoid them before they happen.
Father, thank You for continuing to work on me. Thank You for this past Sunday, and for bringing me to repentance. Thank You for my wife, who makes it so easy to love her, but to love You even more. Help me indeed be a vessel of love to all around me, not in my own strength but because I love You and allow Your love to flow through me, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!