First Place

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I had a conversation with a coworker earlier this week about this very subject.

“I work on Sundays,” he told me.  “This extra construction gig allows me to help pay for my kids’ college.  I have 2 in school, you know.”

He looked at me.

“It adds up.”

I nodded.

He went on.

“We’ve attended the same church for more than 2o years. I’ve missed a lot of Sundays over the last several months. My wife and kids still go, but they notice when I’m not there. A few months back, several of the men kind of ganged up on me.  They asked me where I’d been, and what’s been going on. While I appreciated their concern, they basically told me my priorities were out of whack. I didn’t like it.”

I understood. Sometimes, as Christians, our concern comes out in weird ways. We seek to help and end up hurting instead. Never a good thing.

Another friend of mine had a similar conundrum.

“We work on this project every day until the tank is finished,” he told me. “The tank assemblers live in Kentucky. Their company won’t pay to fly them back and forth more than once. They’ll keep working, even in the rain. They want to be home with their families for Christmas.”

This meant he worked one 16-day stretch with no days off, then another 9 days, then another 13 days. No Sundays at church during that time. He did catch a cold, however. Other friends have jobs where they regularly work Sundays, all the time.

I thought about Eric Liddell, the famous “flying Scotsman”, who refused to run in Sunday heats. He gave up a chance to run his best event at the Olympics because of his convictions. Shouldn’t we all do the same? Isn’t that what God demands, honor and respect on the Sabbath?

I’ve also heard of “tithing” (giving 10%) of our days to God. This means 2.4 hours, if you’re tithing off the gross 24-hour day. I suppose if you’re talking tithing off the net, always a controversial topic in fundamentalist circles, it would be something like 1.6 hours. I’m still puzzling this one out.

Years ago, a friend and I discussed this topic. Keeping the Sabbath holy seems to be the one commandment we have the easiest time breaking. We feel the least conviction about it. In fact, I can count on one hand all the sermons I’ve heard on the subject. And yet, it seems the easiest way to give God first place. We vote with our feet.

But I’m still stuck. How do we put God first? What if our current life circumstances don’t allow us to be part of a believing church body?

Attending services on a regular basis tops my list. I’ve learned, as I get older, time is our most precious commodity. We can’t get it back. Some would say reading the Bible and praying first thing every morning. Thinking of Jesus and singing worship songs throughout the day. Interceding in the Spirit all day long. Serving others before yourself. Taking care of your  family. In short, living the 10 commandments.

I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot.  What does it mean to put God first? The scripture out of Matthew always comes up:  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. As a kid, I learned the KJV version:  See ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.  It even had a melody attached. Go figure.

Maybe it isn’t just one thing. It could include several things. Maybe it’s shooting prayers of gratefulness His way throughout the day. Maybe it’s an act of kindness towards someone who can never repay you. Maybe it’s not saying what you truly think, in the heat of the moment. Maybe it’s getting up early and making a special breakfast for your family. Perhaps it’s doing the right thing – what you know to be the Jesus-thing – even when you just don’t want to.

What does putting God first look like to you?

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