What Comes First in Your Life?
“Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and [God’s] righteousness.”—Matt. 6:33.
1, 2. (a) Why is it not easy to answer the question as to what comes first in our lives? (b) How can this difficulty be illustrated?
WHAT comes first in your life? To give a correct answer to that question may be more difficult than you think. Why? Because it is so easy to deceive oneself, even as God’s Word tells: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?” Yes, who can know it? “I, Jehovah, am searching the heart, . . . even to give to each one according to his ways, according to the fruitage of his dealings.”—Jer. 17:9, 10.
2 Why is this so? Largely because of inherited selfishness. (Gen. 8:21) That is why the Creator provided us with his Word, concerning which it itself tells us: “The word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, . . . and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” A politician may deceive himself into thinking that he is putting the interests of his country first when, in fact, what people think of him is that a lust for power comes first. The religious leaders in Jesus’ day put great stress on God’s righteousness, but their response to Jesus’ ministry revealed that what came first in their lives was selfish gain.—Heb. 4:12; Luke 16:14; John 5:44.
3, 4. What are two ways by which we show what comes first in our lives?
3 What comes first in your life you betray in various ways. For example, you betray what comes first in your life by what you keep thinking about. It may even affect your unconscious mind so that you dream about it. A man or woman in love—you know what occupies their thoughts and dreams. The same is true of the man who speculates in stocks; each day he eagerly peruses the newspapers to see whether his stocks are worth more or less. That is why you are counseled: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart, for out of it are the sources of life.”—Prov. 4:23.
4 Your speech also betrays what comes first in your life. Your favorite subject of conversation, be it money, or clothes, food, health, amusements, sex, or the Christian ministry, is therefore very revealing. This is borne out by studies that have shown that among men the most popular subjects of conversation are business and sports, whereas among women they are men and clothes. Yes, as Jesus said: “A good man brings forth good out of the good treasure of his heart, . . . for out of the heart’s abundance his mouth speaks.”—Luke 6:45.
5, 6. In what other ways do we show what comes first in our lives?
5 Then again, are you especially sensitive about a certain subject or issue, such as racial equality? If so, thereby you also reveal what comes first in your life, what is O so important to you, although it may be quite unimportant in the eyes of God. Today many lands are filled with strife and friction because people, not appreciating true values, are letting comparatively unimportant things come first in their lives.
6 And, of course, you betray what comes first in your life by that on which you spend your time, energy and means. Though we take for granted that you may have to spend most of your time and strength in earning a living, in making ‘honest provision in the sight of Jehovah as well as in the sight of all men,’ as the apostle Paul says at 2 Corinthians 8:21, the question remains, What are you doing with the time, the strength and the means that are at your disposal? By the way you use these you also show what comes first in your life, whether you are obeying Jesus’ command to ‘keep on seeking first God’s kingdom and his righteousness,’ or not.—Matt. 6:33.
THE FOLLY OF PUTTING OTHER THINGS FIRST
7-9. What personal interests do many persons let come first in their lives? with what result?
7 Ever so many persons put first in their lives the acquiring of material possessions. They work hard from early to late, overtime, or hold down two jobs so as to achieve financial security or affluence. How foolish to put first in your life such a pursuit! After all, what will it all amount to? As wise King Solomon observes at Ecclesiastes 2:22, 23—and he certainly was in position to know what he was talking about—“For what does a man come to have for all his hard work and for the striving of his heart with which he is working hard under the sun? For all his days his occupation means pains and vexation, also during the night his heart just does not lie down. This too is mere vanity.”
8 With others fine food and drink come first, such as choice steaks, costly liquor and suchlike. These are the things for which they live. Of them it might well be said, “their god is their belly.” With still others, amusements or entertainment comes first. They suffer from an addiction to the theater, or to playing cards, or to following certain sports; obviously, they are “lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” And with not a few, sex comes first. Sex interest determines their choice of television programs, moving pictures and the stage plays that they see, of the books and magazines they read. It determines their vacations, their parties, their dancing. Putting such things first in your life not only means incurring God’s displeasure but also means running afoul of his immutable laws and reaping frustration, if not also corruption, from the flesh. We cannot escape it: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Phil. 3:19; 2 Tim. 3:4; Gal. 6:7, 8.
9 Then again, still others, perhaps a little more enlightened, but basically also selfish, make physical health and strength the first things in their lives. They think, talk and work at it. They are always dieting, or taking treatments, or trying out some new health gadget. They are so concerned with their physical health that they neglect their spiritual health. Such persons overlook that man does not live on food alone but “by every expression of Jehovah’s mouth.” For a Christian, a healthy body should not be his goal but, at best, merely an aid to realizing his goals.—Deut. 8:3.
WHAT SHOULD COME FIRST? THE KINGDOM
10. What should come first in our lives, and why?
10 What should come first in your life? That all depends upon what you want. Do you want to reap frustration, anxiety and perhaps corruption from the flesh? Or do you want to gain God’s approval and everlasting life in his new order of righteousness? If this is what you want, then you must let God’s kingdom come first in your life.
11, 12. (a) What must we first of all take in if we would let God’s kingdom come first in our lives? (b) What aids has God provided in this respect?
11 Of course, for you to be able to let God’s kingdom come first in your life you must first of all take in knowledge. You must make your mind over so as to prove to yourself what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God for you, even as noted at Romans 12:2. That knowledge can be gained only by a study of God’s Word. It alone can serve as ‘a lamp to your feet, a light to your roadway.’ It alone is able to “make you wise for salvation.” It alone “is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness,” that you may be “completely equipped for every good work.”—Ps. 119:105; 2 Tim. 3:15-17.
12 Not, however, that you can gain this help from God’s Word unaided. You must avail yourself of the assistance God has providentially arranged for you in this day and age. Even as God used certain ones in the days of the apostles to dispense spiritual food to Christians then, so in our day there is a body of dedicated, consecrated and anointed Christians whom Christ is using to give to his followers their spiritual food at the proper time and whom he has appointed over all the earthly interests of his kingdom.—Matt. 24:45-47.
13, 14. (a) Taking in the right kind of knowledge causes us to do what? (b) Thereafter under what obligation do we come?
13 Taking in the right kind of knowledge will make you mindful of the Kingdom, it will help you to appreciate its importance and how great the privilege is to serve God’s kingdom. Then, like Jesus, you will gladly sell all you have, as it were, to inherit that kingdom. In other words, it will cause you to dedicate yourself to serve God, to do his will and to follow in Jesus’ footsteps.—Matt. 16:24.
14 Having thus dedicated yourself to God, you have the obligation to be a Christian twenty-four hours each day. You must be a Christian full time. But whether this means in your case also being a full-time preacher or not may depend upon circumstances over which you have no control. You may have obligations to provide for yourself and your family, and therefore be doing secular work. However, you must be living a Christian life and putting Kingdom interests first in your life.
AIDS TO PUTTING GOD’S KINGDOM FIRST
15, 16. (a) What part does faith play in discharging that obligation? (b) How will honesty aid us?
15 Putting God’s kingdom first in your life is not easy in this present system of things, and for this reason you will need to cultivate Christian virtues, among the chief of which is faith. Faith will give you an unshakable conviction that God exists and that he will reward those earnestly seeking him. Faith will enable you to step out on the promise that, if you keep on seeking first God’s kingdom, ‘all other necessary things will be provided.’ Faith will enable you to put first God’s kingdom and to be loyal to it even in the face of persecution and death.—Matt. 6:33;1 Cor. 15:58; Heb. 11:6.
16 Honesty or conscientiousness will also aid you in letting God’s kingdom come first in your life. Strictly speaking, you have a moral obligation to serve God. After all, ‘he made us and not we ourselves,’ and your life depends upon Him. You are therefore in debt to God, and every honest man will want to pay his debts. The dedication of yourself to the doing of God’s will makes the paying of this debt even more imperative.—Ps. 100:1-3.
17, 18. (a) How can godly devotion and self-sufficiency aid us in this respect? (b) How can modesty help us?
17 Aiding you also in letting God’s kingdom come first in your life are the fine qualities of godly devotion and self-sufficiency. Godly devotion will enable you to evaluate properly the material things of this life as compared with spiritual things. Self-sufficiency will enable you to have peace of mind and happiness with a minimum of this world’s means of life. How wise is Paul’s counsel: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things”!—1 Tim. 6:6-8.
18 Among other Christian qualities that will help you in letting God’s kingdom come first in your life is modesty. Modesty means to evaluate, measure, yourself and your abilities correctly. It means ‘not to think more highly of yourself than it is necessary to think.’ Modesty will keep you from taking yourself too seriously as well as from taking the failings of others too seriously. Modesty will make it easy for you to submit to God’s will and to those who are taking the lead and to be obedient to them for the sake of the interests of God’s kingdom. Modesty helps you to fit in your place, minimizing friction.—Rom. 12:3; Heb. 13:7, 17.
19. Above all, what quality will aid us in letting God’s kingdom come first in our lives?
19 But most important of all Christian qualities is love, for, of ‘faith, hope and love,’ the greatest is love. Love for Jehovah God will make you want to please him, to have his smile of approval. To the extent that you love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, to that extent you will find it easy to let his kingdom come first, come ahead of all else that may seem desirable to you. Love of neighbor will also aid you, for it will make you active in telling him about that kingdom and its blessings.—Prov. 27:11; Mark 12:29-31; 1 Cor. 13:13.
USING YOUR TIME WISELY
20-22. Letting God’s kingdom come first in our lives requires what of us as regards our time?
20 To have God’s kingdom come first in your life you must be a wise steward of your time, for it is indeed limited. People you meet at the doors say that they are too busy to listen to you, and they do have much to take up their time. But if they knew how valuable, how important your message from God’s Word was they would take time to listen to you.
21 Do you appreciate the importance of the words of the apostle Paul at Ephesians 5:15-17 about the use of time? They were never more pertinent than they are right now. If you do appreciate them you will apply them to your daily life: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.”
22 Buy out the opportune time for what? For personal study, for one thing. It is every bit as important as attendance at congregational meetings, for which you also must buy out time. To make the best use of your time, study and listen, not only with the thought of using it in the ministry to teach others, but also to teach yourself, applying to yourself what you hear and see. And as for your attendance at meetings, are you letting God’s kingdom come first in your life when you let a little bad weather keep you from attending?—Rom. 2:21.
23. In what other way will we be alert to use our time if we let God’s kingdom come first in our lives?
23 For you to let God’s kingdom come first in your life you must also buy out time for the Christian ministry. Are you devoting all the time you could for incidental, street, and house-to-house preaching of the everlasting good news, in making return visits and in conducting Bible studies in the homes of interested people? Surely the suggested minimum goal for this, twenty minutes a day, two and a half hours a week or ten hours a month, is a reasonable one for a mature Christian. Jehovah’s witnesses try to devote at least ten hours a month to their field ministry. Many of the persons they visit think that this is too much time because, in some countries, the visits seem to them to be too often.
USING YOUR PHYSICAL AND FINANCIAL ASSETS WISELY
24, 25. Letting God’s kingdom come first in our lives dictates what regarding our physical energies?
24 You also show what comes first in your life by how you expend your physical energies. Your time is valuable only to the extent that you have mental and physical strength to make use of it. Since your strength is limited, you want to be careful not to waste it by overindulgence in food or drink, in keeping late hours or by undue excitement. You can even waste a lot of nervous energy by talking too much, even though the muscles of the tongue may never tire!
25 In using your physical energies you want to avoid both extremes. On the one hand, do not become a fanatic, for, as God assures us at Psalm 103:14, he is an understanding Father; “he himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” You need sufficient rest; go at your work with poise, self-control, with the spirit of a sound mind. On the other hand, avoid the extreme of being overly concerned with your physical well-being, as if it were the chief thing in life. Strive for balance, for reasonableness, just as God’s Word counsels at Philippians 4:5: “Let your reasonableness become known to all men.”
26-28. How will we use our financial assets if God’s kingdom comes first with us?
26 And, of course, the same applies to your use of your financial means, your money and other material possessions. Today, the love of money is a particularly powerful and subtle snare that can easily interfere with your letting God’s kingdom come first in your life. Remember, “those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin. For the love of money,” or love of the things you can get for money, “is a root of all sorts of injurious things.”—1 Tim. 6:9, 10.
27 True, you have the obligation to provide honestly for yourself and your own. But if, to be satisfied, you have to have the finest or near-finest in the way of home, clothing and automobile, it may well be asked, Are you letting God’s kingdom come first? Those who have such an outlook deserve the rebuke Paul gave the Corinthian Christians, who obviously were fleshly-minded and materialistic: “You men already have your fill, do you? You are rich already, are you? You have begun ruling as kings without us, have you? And I wish indeed that you had begun ruling as kings, that we also might rule with you as kings. . . . We are fools because of Christ, but you are discreet in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are in good repute, but we are in dishonor. . . . I am writing these things, not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” Those Corinthian Christians were not letting God’s kingdom come first in their lives.—1 Cor. 4:8-14.
28 Yes, to the extent that you let God’s kingdom come first in your life, to that extent you will be modest in the material possessions you acquire and enjoy. Then you will have more “Mammon” available for making friends with God and Jesus Christ, by contributing toward the interests of His kingdom on earth and your needy brothers.—Luke 16:9.
KEEPING RELAXATION AND ENTERTAINMENT IN THEIR PLACE
29. Where do relaxation and entertainment fit in?
29 Letting God’s kingdom come first in your life does not rule out relaxation and entertainment. It does not mean that you may never see a moving picture, never spend any time on the bathing beach, never attend a party, wedding or baseball game. But you will want to be careful not to let these things interfere unduly with your personal Bible study, with your attendance of congregational meetings, with your Christian ministry. Here again, it is a question of balance. For many, these things may serve a good purpose, if kept in their place, but do not put them in the first place.
30. What things should be taken into consideration as regards our entertainment?
30 Yes, such things are not ruled out for Christians if kept in their place and if they are kept clean. But so much of today’s entertainment is unclean, even morally filthy, especially moving pictures and stage plays. The same caution applies to parties. They can either be an excuse for indulging the desires of the flesh or be an occasion for wholesome relaxation, getting to know each other better and for building up one another. Do not be like the clergyman who at a party was asked a Bible question by a person looking for the truth and who replied, “Aw come on now! Let’s not mix business with pleasure!” Do not rule out Christian conversation at social gatherings. By what you like to talk about on such occasions you also show what comes first in your life!
31. If we truly let God’s kingdom come first, what most likely will not and what most likely will suffer some neglect or lack of time and energy?
31 There are so many things that make demands on your time, your money and your energies, and yet that make life most interesting. You must provide things honest in the sight of all men for yourself and those that are your own; there is so much personal Bible studying to be done; there are five weekly Christian congregational meetings to prepare for and attend; there is so much to do in the Christian ministry, and then there is also the need for relaxation and diversion. It certainly will take wisdom to give each its due; but if something is going to be neglected, what will it be? Will you let relaxation and diversion repeatedly interfere with your Christian obligations so that your Christianity is often merely a matter of good intentions? Or will your interest in your Christian activities be such that perhaps relaxation and diversion suffer some neglect?
32-34. For what three good reasons should we let God’s kingdom come first in our lives?
32 Letting God’s kingdom come first in your life is the wise, the just and the loving thing to do. Thereby you bring honor to Jehovah God and share in the vindication of his name, making his heart, the heart of the Universal Sovereign, glad.
33 By letting God’s kingdom come first in your life you also bring the greatest possible lasting benefit to others; to those of your family, to those in your congregation with whom you regularly worship and to the interested persons outside to whom you minister.
34 And by letting God’s kingdom come first in your life you stand to benefit yourself; not only will you escape frustrations and sorrows that befall those who follow selfish pursuits, but you will gain many blessings, such as a clean conscience, satisfaction as you note your progress to spiritual maturity, and joy at seeing the fruits of your labors, in your fellow Christians and in men whose interest is being aroused in God. Additionally, you can look forward to endless life in happiness in the new system of things, as a part either of the new heavens or of the new earth in which righteousness is to dwell.—2 Pet. 3:13.
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