Time management is a staple of American society. We have people to see, places to be, and tasks to accomplish. During a visit to a mosque on the north side of Chicago, I once heard an imam preach about the importance of prioritizing our spiritual lives. He lamented that we often live our lives upside down. We prioritize work over family and family over God. He proposed that if we reversed the order, then we would find a healthier balance to life. As a Christian, I’ve heard similar messages preached in churches. In our world, there seems to be a longing to know what and how to prioritize what matters. We want to prioritize what is important to us, and there can be differing opinions about what is important.
For example, turning off the light when you leave a room may or may not be a priority to you. I heard a story about a maintenance man who worked at a seminary. He’d say, “You can teach these students to read and write in Greek, but you can’t teach them to read the three-letter word, ‘OFF.’” As a seminary student, I can attest to the fact that the light switch is not on most seminarians’ minds. There is, however, one generation that will never forget to prioritize turning off the lights: the so-called “Silent Generation” (the generation born during the Great Depression). I’m often reminded to turn off the lights by a Beacon Hill resident who says, “I lived during the Depression. It’s just part of who I am.”
Franklin Roosevelt became President during the Great Depression. His primary goal was to find ways to create prosperity and provide for the needs of Americans. That’s why he coined the phrase, “first 100 days,” during a 1933 radio address. Roosevelt was convinced that it made a difference what the President prioritized in the first 100 days with executive powers at his disposal. He said, “Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require.” In Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office, he wanted to prove to the American people what was most important to him. Our priorities reveal who we are and what we care about.
In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus’ first days in his ministry reveal his priorities. Jesus’ goal was to be the light to all people and let his light shine on the whole person. In Matthew 4:16, Jesus goes to “the people living in darkness.” His first movements in ministry were toward people who were outsiders, oppressed, and forgotten. His mission was about bringing light to, not just a people, but to all people. However, he entered ministry during a time marked by great division… a time when almost no one was crossing barriers to meet other people where they were. It was a time much like today… a time where polarization and partisanship ruled. Yet, Jesus pressed on into the darkness to become a bridge of healing in the midst of division.
As that bridge of healing, Jesus prioritized a holistic ministry. Jesus met each person where they were and shined his light into every aspect of their lives. He came to provide healing of head, heart, spirit, and body. His teaching provided healing ideas for the mind, his preaching healed wounds in the heart, and his engagement with people brought healing to their spirits and bodies. Jesus spent time with people, responded to their real needs, and provided hope to the hopeless. In Jesus’ first days of ministry, these priorities were changing people’s lives.
As we enter the second month of 2020, do you have your priorities in order? Do the things you do reflect who you are and who you want to be? For many of us, we just haven’t made the time to assess what we are prioritizing. Maybe the time is now. Maybe assessing our first priorities could not only change our lives, but also the lives of those we love.
Grace and Peace,