Driven by Your Top Priority

Driven by Your Top Priority

Our top priority ought to drive us. Jesus noticed a problem with the priorities of His followers. Their top priority was being eroded by mundane problems and worries. Jesus prescribed their top priority this way:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ ...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31-33).

What are a leader’s priorities? It is found in an ordering of a leader’s objectives. Priorities acknowledge that:

  1. All objectives are not equally important,
  2. Higher ranked objectives are more important than lower ranked objectives, and
  3. One objective tops the list, and it should never be compromised.

What are a leader’s priorities?

Concerning priorities, we can learn much from two leaders, who are described at length in the Bible: King Solomon and Apostle Paul.

King Solomon had everything

King Solomon accomplished many earthly goals, perhaps more than any other ruler, man or woman. He was skilled, and here are some of his accomplishments (1 Kings 9:15-26):

  1. Built the Lord’s temple, his own palace (v. 15),
  2. Constructed the terraces, the wall of Jerusalem (v. 15),
  3. Built Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer (v. 15),
  4. Rebuilt Gezer, Lower Beth Horon, (vs. 17),
  5. Built Baalath, and Tadmor in the desert, as well as all his store cities and the towns for his chariots and for his horses—whatever he desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon and throughout all the territory he ruled, (vs. 18) and
  6. Built ships at Ezion (vs. 26).

In addition, for a good measure, the Bible says, King Solomon had wisdom, knowledge, wealth, and an abundance of possessions (2 Chronicles 1:12).

When he lost track of his priorities sometime during his life, King Solomon angered God and learned the hard way to get his priorities right toward the end of his life. King Solomon made two statements about his priorities. In Ecclesiastes 1:1 he declares everything and every accomplishment was “meaningless,” or “vanity.” He said:

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? (ESV).

When Solomon lost track of his priorities, the Bible says, “The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.  Although, he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the Lord’s command (1 Kings 11:9-10).

The Lord’s anger appears to have brought Solomon back because near the end of his life, he makes a second statement about his priorities which is:

The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man ( Ecclesiastes 12:13; ESV).

By paraphrasing his two statements about priorities, we can state the King’s complete statement of priorities towards the end of his life as, “Fear God and keep his commandments, everything else is vanity.”

What is notable about the king’s statement is the fact he literally had “everything” before concluding “everything is vanity.” His statement that “everything is vanity,” is not a case of sour grapes.

King Solomon learned the hard way: “Fear God and Keep his commandments, everything else is vanity.” Solomon’s decisions that led him astray teach us, leaders tend to lose track of their priorities by pursuing, what he calls, “vanities.”

Apostle Paul had very little

The Apostle Paul makes a forceful statement to King Agrippa thus, “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19). This is only a partial statement of his priorities. Another part of his priorities is expressed in 1 Timothy 6:8, where he said: “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”

When we combine the two parts of Paul’s priorities, we get this: “To be totally obedient to God’s vision, you need no more than food and clothing.”

It is notable that King Solomon (who had everything) and Apostle Paul (who was reduced to food and clothing), both significant leaders in the Bible, living hundreds of years apart, agree with Jesus’ teaching on priorities, and show us how to make it practical.

They all agree: Let your top priority drive you.

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Paul Swamidass

Paul Swamidass, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus, Harbert College of Business, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, USA. INTEREST: Leadership training for leaders of Christian organizations. He has published some articles on Christian leadership and contributed to some Christian-leadership training in India in partnership with The Kerusso Institute for Global Leaders