If you have tracked with me in the previous three posts (see links below), then you never ever have to say something stupid like “God is my first priority, then my spouse, then my family, then my church, then my job...” This notion of a hierarchy of priorities is neither biblical nor practical. In fact, this 123 plan has more in common with the worship of many gods than devotion to the one true God.
When God presents Himself as the God who is one, He means for us to replace attempts to juggle multiple allegiances with the freedom of pleasing just Him. Living for God alone is also the smart play: We are trusting in the only One who is worthy of perfect trust.
Perhaps you are saying, “That’s all well and good, but you haven’t told me how to relate to my wife and children if I live for God alone.” Let’s take care of that right now! Someone might construe living for God alone as a warrant to say farewell to the world, turn his back on his spouse, children, parents, and church and head to the woods (or monastery) to pray and meditate 24/7. This would be precisely the right thing to do, IF God is expressly asking for it. But in most cases, He isn’t.
God declares in the Bible exactly what He expects of those who live for Him alone. In many cases, these directives are role and gender specific. God wants husbands to conduct themselves in ways that honor Him in their role as husbands. Same for wives, parents, children, citizens, and even servants. The Bible is loaded with guidance about how to honor God in a variety of roles.
The illustration above depicts something similar to Dagon's debacle. A wheel with “God Alone” in the center is knocking down a series of 123 priorities. This wheel illustrates how we can live for God alone as we occupy different roles. The outer circle of this wheel specifies some possible roles occupied by followers of Jesus. I have listed six, but not every role, like “Servant,” “Parent,” or “Spouse,” is relevant to everyone. Further, there are more roles beyond the representative six in this wheel, roles like “Friend,” “Neighbor,” “Employee,” and “Student.”
Think of these roles as hats. At any given moment, you are wearing at least one of these hats. Sometimes, you must switch hats in the blink of an eye. But regardless of which hat you are wearing at any particular moment, your challenge and privilege is to conduct yourself in a way that honors God alone.
This approach to priorities is thoroughly biblical and eminently practical. Here is a general verse: “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Paul’s principle is: “Regardless of what you are doing, even the small stuff, do it for God alone.” It doesn’t matter what hat you are wearing, conduct yourself in a way that honors God.
Here are some verses that are gender and role specific: “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). When a woman operates in the role of wife, her response to her husband is the outworking of her response to the Lord. When men wear their husband hats, God expects them to love their wives the way His Son loves the church: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).
Here is a passage that is striking for its reference to an “obligatory role,” that of a slave: “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ” (Ephesians 6:5). The Bible is not advocating or endorsing servitude, but is advocating that those who find themselves wearing this hat should conduct themselves in a way that reflects well on the one true God whom they ultimately serve. For those who are wearing a hat that they wouldn’t choose for themselves, this passage encourages them to honor God while wearing that hat.
Understanding the hat rack with God alone in the center is not a complete answer to the question of priorities, but it is the perfect place to start. This is the ultimate hat trick, in which our lives are profoundly simplified for the fact that regardless of what hat we wear, our goal is to please God alone; trust God alone; serve God alone. Husbands, love God by loving your wives. Wives, respect God by respecting your husbands. Parents, serve God by seeking His best for your children. Sons and daughters, honor God by honoring your parents. Disciples of Jesus, love God alone by obeying the commands of His Son. Citizens, make God look good by living in accord with the laws of the state.
This is not complicated: Live for God’s pleasure, no matter what hat you are wearing. Would you like a handy copy of the “God alone” chart to post on your refrigerator? Click Here. Even better, make this question the starting point for every decision about what to do next: "God, based on your Word, how can I make you look good by how I conduct myself in this situation?"