Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Jesus and Our Priorities

Photo Courtesy Of: Estee Janssens

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.” 

                                                                                                   —Matthew 22:1-10

Being a podcaster, blogger, author, and business owner, I operate in circles where it is very common for folks to talk about striving, hustling, and getting ahead. Making your dreams come true, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and taking courses designed to help you gain thousands of online followers are what is focused on by people in similar shoes to my own. The problem with this, however, is that it is all steeped in self-help rather than in the help and direction of the Holy Spirit.

The result is that priorities get out of whack, workaholism runs rampant, and the legitimately important tasks of work and ministry become idols which are raised up in the place of time spent with God and a focus on Him as our number one priority. When we forget this one thing that matters most—our day-in, day-out relationship with Him—we are in dangerous territory, just one step away from falling into the same trap into which Martha fell.

On the Tuesday of Holy Week, Jesus shared with His disciples a multitude of parables, answered questions regarding the resurrection, and discussed what is the greatest commandment. When trying to decide which of these many teachings to zero in on with you today, I felt compelled to choose this parable of the wedding. After all, Lent is that forty-day season wherein we seek to shut out the distractions of this world, cease our striving, and focus on the Lord. That is precisely what Jesus is teaching His followers to do in this passage from Matthew.

When we place anything ahead of our time with God, anything ahead of obeying Him, and anything higher on the list of those things which interest and delight us, we become guilty of idolatry. Sadly, that is precisely what is happening in this parable Jesus told.

Jesus tells the story of a king whose son was about to be married. It is said that in this parable, God the Father represents the king, Jesus represents the son, and He is marrying the church. As the wedding in the parable is being planned, the king’s servants are sent out to invite people to come to the celebration and the subsequent feast that will follow. (Sounds like the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelation, doesn’t it?)

The problem, however, is that the people invited just don’t see the wedding and the wedding feast as being all that big a deal. In fact, they “made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.” What did they view as being more important than the wedding celebration? Their homes and businesses.

How often do we behave this very same way? Sure, we may be professing believers and followers of Christ, but how often do we actually live as if that is a true description of us? How often do we seek the Lord in His Word and prayer? How often do we seek the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit? On the flip side, how often do we spend time scrolling our phones, binge-watching Netflix, or working all hours of the day and night?

Sadly, this is a vicious cycle. The more we give in to our phones, our TVs, and our work, the less interesting prayer and Bible study seem to be in comparison. Then we crave our entertainment even more. And as the length of time increases between ourselves and the last time we were in the Word or prayer, the increasingly less likely we are to choose to turn to those practices.

As discouraging as that might sound, the opposite is also blessedly true. The more we choose to be in the Word and prayer (even if at first we don’t feel like it), the more we will yearn for that communion with our Savior. We will find the Bible, replete with its stories of intrigue, danger, love, history, overthrown kingdoms, wisdom for the ages, and recipes for right living, come alive in an increasingly interesting way the more we pore over it. The more we pray, the more we will want to pray, wanting to always be in communication with our God throughout the day.

Truly, the key to us not growing lackadaisical or complacent in our view of the glorious good news of the gospel is choosing to live in light of it, choosing to be in the Word and in prayer, and choosing to walk by the Spirit—even when we don’t feel like it.

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