1. Text: Rom. 6:16.
  2. The young man in Mt. 19:16–22 would probably have said that spiritual concerns were his highest priority. 
    1. Yet when he was told to sell what he had, “he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
    2. What he may have said about his values indicated one thing; his actions indicated another. Cf. the difference between “espoused values” and “values in action.”
  3. If we’re not constantly careful, our list of priorities can become disordered — and at such times, being honest enough to face the truth is not easy.
  4. When asked what is most important, we tend to answer in terms of what we know should be most important, etc. — but the Lord does not judge what our priorities are by our ideals and intentions, He looks at our practice — Rom. 6:16.
  5. Before it’s too late to make changes, we need to ask ourselves some questions about what our priorities really are.

I. What Would Others Say Our Priorities Are?

  1. Others may not know us as well as we know ourselves, but they are often more objective about what they do know.
  2. What would our neighbors, co-workers, etc. say we are really about?
  3. More than anybody, our children are able tell what matters most to us in the rough and tumble of daily living.

II. What Do We Think About?

  1. Our true priorities are the things our minds are drawn to when they are in “neutral,” when activities and obligations don’t require us to be thinking about anything in particular.
  2. “What the heart likes best, the mind studies most” (Richard Sibbes).
  3. The person who finds that he meditates on God only when he forces himself to do so is lying if he says the spiritual life is his overriding concern. Cf. Psa. 1:2.

III. What Do We Talk About?

  1. Our conversations arise out of the things that are on our minds — and if we have to admit we rarely talk about the Lord (except in connection with church services) that ought to tell us something. Cf. Mt. 12:34,35.
  2. Even if we talk about spiritual things, if our conversation gravitates more naturally and enthusiastically toward other things, then there is serious doubt whether our ultimate priorities are really spiritual.

IV. How Do We Spend Our “Discretionary” Time?

  1. Hardly anybody has as much spare time as he would like — but all of us have some, and the way we spend it displays our priorities. 
    1. There are families, for example, who “vacation” by traveling to gospel meetings, etc. in distant states.
    2. On the other hand, there are folks who complain all their working lives about not having enough time to do the Lord’s work, and then spend virtually all of their retirement years in personal leisure, with less time devoted to the Lord than before!
  2. Our use of time that is ours to do with as we deem best is a fair indication whether we are telling the truth when we say we love the Lord more than anything. Cf. 1 Jn. 3:18.

V. How Do We Spend Our “Discretionary” Money?

  1. As with discretionary time, so it is with money — e.g. 2 Cor. 8:1–5.
  2. Suppose someone recommended a $30 reference book that would help us in our study of the Scriptures, a $20 a year periodical that would help us grow spiritually, etc. — but we said we couldn’t afford it.
  3. If it was known that we sometimes spent at least that much on sporting events and recreational activities, that it was not unusual for us in a single evening to spend that much in a restaurant, that we would not object to spending that much on decorative home furnishings, etc., could anyone take seriously our claim that the Lord is our uppermost concern?

VI. What “Gives” When We Face a Conflict of Priorities?

  1. Perhaps no conflicts annoy us more than scheduling conflicts — unable to be two places at the same time, we often have to sacrifice something.
  2. In sports, for example, when a conflict arises with the services of the church, we make a statement about our priorities.
  3. At work, if we are willing, on business trips, etc. to violate our commitment to assemble with the brethren, we demonstrate which of our various priorities we are willing to make the bigger sacrifice for.
  4. When priorities collide we learn the most about ourselves, our values, and whether the Lord reigns within us or not. Cf. 2 Tim. 4:10.


  1. How then do I know — in all honesty — what my priorities are? By looking at what I am, in fact, doing with my life — Rom. 6:16.
  2. At least one thing is clear: I can’t give the first and the best of myself to pursuit of the “American Dream” and still turn around and say the Lord is my first love. Cf. 1 Jn. 2:15.
  3. I can’t go “all out” for one thing and then truthfully claim another is more important. Cf. Mt. 6:24.
  4. Where my priorities are, there will my energy and enthusiasm be also.
  5. A blessing is pronounced on the “pure in heart” (Mt. 5:8).
  6. God is asking from us wholehearted commitment — and the willingness to put Him first in everything.

Gary Henry — +

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