33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:33–34, NKJV)
Jesus said we must make the rule and reign of God and His righteousness the priority of our lives instead of the things of this world (Matthew 6:24-32). Daily priorities not only set what we pursue each day, but also what we pursue our entire life. Priorities of the day turn into months, then months into years until finally, life ends. We are tempted to set a lifetime goal of making God our top priority, yet fail to genuinely make Him and His will our daily priority. It is far easier to say Christ is our lifelong priority than to live that priority day by day (Luke 6:46; Matthew 7:21). How can we tell when we have fallen into this deception? By honestly assessing whether we are so worried and anxiously distracted by the troubles of each day that God’s rule and righteousness are pushed to the side (v. 34; Acts 24:25). When daily concerns are our most urgent priority, they distract us and deter us from walking by faith. When that happens, God is not our priority. We are serving another master instead of the One who provides our daily bread and saves us eternally. Strengthen your faith and trust God every day, so that as your days turn into months and month into years, when death comes you will have eternal rest.
2 And he said, “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, 3 and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’” (Acts 7:2–3, NKJV)
We have heard people say that God would never expect them to leave (go contrary to) their family to do His will. Yet, that is exactly what God commanded Abraham to do. Abraham obeyed God without hesitation and went to a foreign land, all because God said to do so. This is the essence of God-pleasing faith. Listen to Hebrews 11:8: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Genuine faith in Jesus Christ means loving Him more than we love our own family and our own country. Genuine faith obeys the word of God, even when relatives will not. Family is important, but family is not the most important thing (God is more important, see Matthew 10:34-38). Many people have a hard time with this simple but profound truth. The gospel of Christ calls us to make a fundamental choice of Jesus before family, before country, and before self. Without faith (the kind of faith Abraham had) it is impossible to please God. Why? Because “he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Make sure Christ is always first in your life.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:26, NKJV)
Many want to follow Jesus until they learn of the sacrifice He requires. Then, many turn away (John 6:60, 66). Does Jesus really expect those who follow Him to hold hatred in their hearts for their closest family members? No, Jesus is not demanding hatred as a requirement for coming to Him. Jesus is demanding that we love all these, including our own lives, less than we love Him. This is a repetition of what Jesus taught in Luke 12:49-53, where “father will be divided against son and son against father…” Christ must be your preeminent priority, including your family and yourself, otherwise, you cannot be His disciple. That is what Jesus said. This kind of devotion to Jesus demands the kind of sacrifice that few possess. Perhaps this is why Jesus said there are many who seek to enter the narrow gate that leads to life, but only few who find it (Lk. 13:23-24; Matt. 7:13-14). When you must choose between pleasing your family member or pleasing Jesus, who do you choose? Following Jesus comes at a price. Count the cost, and pay the price of discipleship.
61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)
Good intentions without genuine commitment may soothe the conscience, but they do not satisfy the Lord. This person not only had a problem with setting the priority of following Jesus first, his words revealed another common hindrance to being a disciple of Christ Jesus; His dedication to his family was superior to his commitment to Jesus. The Lord is not condemning telling one’s family goodbye. But, He is undoubtedly saying no one can truly follow Him until every other commitment is made secondary to His will. Some people simply will not fully commitment themselves to following Jesus because family fondness trumps fidelity to the Son of God. By doing so they prove themselves unfit for the kingdom of God. Jesus demands first place and total commitment; no exceptions. Set your hand to the plow and always be committed to Christ first.
59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)
Many might find what Jesus says here offensive, as He did not care for the dead and those grieving their demise. That is not true, and would be a gross misrepresentation of Jesus (see Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus in John 11:17-37). The man Jesus called to follow Him said he would, but “first” he wanted to bury his father. A noble endeavor, yet one that drew attention to the priorities this man (and everyone since) must have to truly follow Jesus wherever He goes. Jesus commanded him to “go and preach the kingdom of God”, and that took precedence over everything else. Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness calls us to live the priorities of our faith, not reduce their significance based on other important activities. Nothing is as important as following Jesus. What is most important to you; Your wants and desires, or following Jesus first?