Having learned that he had stage 4 brain cancer in 2006, David Menasche, a Miami High School English teacher, decided to crisscross the country tracking down his old students in order to find out if his life had made a difference in their life. Using Facebook as his primary means of communication David reconnected with former students in over 50 cities who agreed to help and house him during this odyssey. David decided to end his treatments and seek healing in the discovery that while cancer may take his life it could not kill his legacy. He wanted to know that his teaching career had given his students a love for learning and life. He wanted to know that he had pushed others toward success and significance. He wanted to know if his life had been well spent. He wanted to know if his passions and priorities had been on target. His journey is chronicled in his book, The Priority List.
Like David Menasche none of us want to come to the end of our lives having made the secondary things primary or having lived by pressures rather than priorities. We all need to be alert to the fact that life has a way of spreading us thin by swamping us with choices, pulling us in all kinds of directions that cause us to focus on the immediate and the not the ultimate, the small and not the big, the good and not the best, the earthly and not the heavenly. If truth were told, life is dragging many of us around by the nose because of a failure to prioritize! Sadly, it is often the case in life that the last thing we learn is what to put first.
As disciples of Jesus Christ how should our priority list look? Thankfully the Lord Jesus helps us with that question in answering a question posed to Him concerning the “first commandment of all” (Mark 12:28). A Scribe who was trying to determine his own priority list regarding the 613 separate commands that made up the law in Israel asked the question and Jesus helps him immensely by reducing the law to two commandments: first, love God and second, love your neighbor (Mark 12:30-31). Makes sense when you think about the fact that the Ten Commandments can be broken down along similar lines. The first four commandments focus on our relationship to God, and the second six commandments focus on our relationship to our neighbors. The lawful life is about loving God and loving others in light of God’s love for us.
In these words Jesus would remind us that at the head of any one of our priority lists must be a passion to love God! We can do that by firstly, prioritizing our relationship with Him (Matt. 10:37-38); secondly, by treating others kindly (Mark 12:31); thirdly, by esteeming and studying Scripture (Psalm 119: 47, 97); fourthly, by obeying biblical commands (John 14:15); fifthly, by hating evil (Psalm. 97:10); sixthly, by conversing with God in prayer (Psalm 116:1-2); seventhly, by publically confessing our love for God in worship (Psalm 18:1-3); eighthly, by helping God’s people (1 John 4:17); and, ninthly, by anticipating Jesus soon return (2 Tim. 4:8)!
What’s top of your priority list? May it not be true of us that the last thing we learned was what to put first?