In last week’s article, we discussed the importance that is placed by the Scriptures on what should be first as we seek to serve God acceptably. Today I want to discuss some examples of those who put something else first and put Jesus second.
In Matthew 8:21 we read, “And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.” This disciple, like many of us today, wanted to serve the Lord after he buried his father. I believe brother James Burton Coffman hit the nail on the head with his comments on this verse:
“The proposition set forth by the disciple mentioned here was not that his father was dead and that he desired to be excused to hold the funeral. Far from it. He was one of the group known as “wait a little” Pharisees who always proposed something else to do first. He meant that he was not free to be a disciple until after the death of his father but that he would be glad to follow Jesus after his father died. In a rejoinder which seems harsh if not understood in its true meaning, Jesus allowed no delay, encouraged no procrastination, and commanded that those spiritually dead should be left to bury their own dead. Well did Jesus know that if this disciple returned home to the old ways, the old viewpoint, and the old habits, he would never more wish to follow his Lord. The admonition of Jesus, seen in this light, is therefore full of the utmost love and consideration for that unknown disciple’s eternal welfare” (Coffman: Commentary on Matthew).
Another example can be found in the story related by Mark of the rich, young ruler who came to Jesus asking, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). After Jesus answered his initial question and heard his response, He then told him, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (v. 21). This young man would likely have followed Jesus if he were permitted to put his wealth first and Jesus second, but Mark informs us, “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.”
Other examples: Demas forsook Paul because he “loved this present world” (II Tim. 4:10). He placed the world first and it caused him to desert his Christian responsibilities. Felix was not willing to obey Christ until he had a “convenient time” (Acts 26:25). Instead of placing Christ first in his life he would wait until it was more convenient to serve Him. That time never came.
Our generation has not changed. We still put family before serving the Lord. Sometimes when one family member has a sniffle, the whole family misses worship. Others forsake the worship to cook the Sunday meal or to entertain friends. In Luke 14:26 Jesus stresses that He must be first, and that we must not love family more than Him. Read Genesis 20:30-31 to understand what it means to “hate” as used by Jesus in this passage.
Many today still put wealth first. Without a doubt, what was said of the rich, young ruler describes many people in our materialistic world, who put “being rich” as more important than being right. Paul warns of this disposition and attitude in I Timothy 6:9-10. A man who doesn’t have much wealth but who has the desire to be rich to the point that he puts Jesus second in his life is being described here.
As Demas, many allow worldly attractions to come first before serving Jesus (I John 2:15-17). Like Felix, many would follow Jesus if they could keep their sins and put Jesus in a lower position.
Is Jesus really first in your life? Jesus doesn’t want a place in your life, He wants your life! Give Him your life; put Him first in all things. The reward will be worth it (Mark 10:28-30)! Paul M. Wilmoth