Sunday, September 3, 2006

The Art of Prioritization

“But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. Then cometh the end...” (1 Cor.15:23-24a)

I thought about this last week when I faced the daunting task of changing from a larger to a smaller purse (for now). At times like this, you are forced to choose between the handy and the essential, right? Fortunately, I have ceased trying to play the role of the universal donor for every minor crisis. Now that my children are gone, there is less need for the virtual first-aid kit I used to carry!

The longer I live, the more I see that the people who accomplish the most in life—spiritually and otherwise—are the ones who know how to effectively prioritize. God Himself, Who has neither beginning nor ending, nevertheless works with man in an orderly fashion, putting first things first, as the cited verse shows. I talked to someone recently who related to me a conversation he had with someone who was allowing something truly harmful to be a part of his or her child’s entertainment. When he pointed this out, the parent acknowledged the problem, but stated that removing the bad would cost the loss of something that was not bad, as well; as though that were a legitimate reason for leaving the child morally in danger. This is a classic case of warped priorities.

It all goes back to mindset. If my goal is temporal, seeking to get all I can out of life and experience all that my physical senses are capable of, this will determine what I put first in line in my choices. On the other hand, if my goal is eternal, putting all I can into life and experiencing the exhilaration of holy purpose, this, too, will be manifested by the position of importance I give to the kingdom of God. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt.6:33). C.S. Lewis wrote in a letter: “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”

The thing to remember is, in most cases, the “second things” are quite legitimate. It is simply that they are of less consequence than the “first things.” Perhaps this is why so many people get it wrong. It takes maturity to discern good from better, and there are many immature individuals, both in and out of the church.

I am doing quite well now with my smaller purse. As you might imagine, I have played this scenario before—both ways. I know now what is truly important and what, in the final analysis, only amounts to clutter. And one nice thing about perfecting the art of wise prioritizing in life is that when the time comes to begin downsizing, you will already know where to start. Like the smaller purse, I am finding that I need less and less to maneuver through these final steps in my walk of faith; because, in the final analysis, much of life is just clutter.

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