On Monday, I addressed the issue of our sometimes using God to justify our neglect and mistreatment of people. My point was that when one does such things, and does so under the guise of “God is the most important priority in my life,” he/she is misunderstanding what it means to make God #1. Today, however, I’d like to turn the tables. What happens when people use “love for others” as an excuse to neglect/mistreat God?
Here’s what I mean: I don’t read my Bible because I have an obligation to see my friends, spend x-amount of time with my family, and yes – I’m involved with serving the poor in a third world country. I can’t generously support the ministry of my local church – where I and my family are spiritually fed and where meaningful relationships in our lives are facilitated – because I need that money for my family. I can’t spend time in prayer, cultivating my love relationship with God, because I need to be at the hospital with my sick family member.
Now, are all these situations examples of good things? Of course! The problem is that we oftentimes make 2 situations mutually exclusive when they don’t have to be. For example, if I say I can’t read my Bible regularly – and I justify it with “I have to spend time with so and so,” that’s just a monumental cop out, right? The issue isn’t one of priorities – it’s one of time management. If I am responsible and disciplined with my time, and I can do both – and do them well. If I don’t tithe because “I need the money for my own family’s well-being,” that’s a cop out, too. Again, the issue isn’t priority – it’s money management. If I 1) believed that 100% of my money is God’s to begin with (and He allows me to keep 90% of it!) and if I 2) utilized the financial principles found in the Bible, I could support both my family and my church. But instead, I neglect God’s family and spiritualize it by saying “I have to take care of my family. Finally, if I don’t pray because I have other people to serve – again, it’s not a priority thing – it’s time management. If we learn how to make the best use of the time God gives us, we can certainly (if we really have the desire to) do everything He calls us to do.
At the end of the day, it’s easy to forget about God and pass it off as an “extreme” version of what I wrote about on my last post. But here’s the fact: God has called us to love God AND love others. It’s not an “either/or” – it’s a “both/and.” Shirking responsibility in either area and justifying it with an “either/or” paradox is an unrealistic as it is immature. And unfortunately, I’ve been guilty of this in my life more times than I can count. My prayer for myself is the same prayer I have for you: that we might achieve balance in the way we love. That we might be generous lovers of God and extravagant lovers of others. That’s the kind of balance I see in the life of Jesus, and I know that He makes the Spirit’s power available in my life and yours so that we can progress toward such balance as well. May we live as holistic, well-rounded, Word-taught, whole-souled followers of Christ who become who we are supposed to become in order that we may accomplish all that He has called us to accomplish. And may we do so by prioritizing God AND people – to the exclusion of neither.