He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:26)
Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. (Isaiah 2:8)
MAKE GOD THE GREATEST AGAIN
In this time when there seems to be a rising nationalist sentiment - both here in the U.S. and abroad - we hear Jesus say, “... give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
When we decide to put our nation first - above everything else - the first casualty is always God and the message of the Gospel. Oh, we may try to spin it - to act as if our nationalism has something to do with God or some particular scripture that we reference - but what we are really doing is putting country before God. And that leads us, always, into perilous places.
As I read both the Old Testament and the New Testament (e.g., “... strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness...” - Matthew 6:33), we are being admonished and reminded - over and over again - to put God first. Put God first, and everything else will fall into place.
But we are always tempted to put something else first. Our country, our rights, our guns, some particular group that we identify with, our job, our family, our favorite sports team, our exercise regimen, our cell phones, our diet, our security, our money, our house. We can put so many other things ahead of God, and our deep-down desire to be in union with God, and love God, and learn from God.
As I was reading the Isaiah reading for today and came upon one particular verse, I couldn’t help but think of how timeless this verse is for today, when so many of us spend so much time bowing down, interacting with our cell phones. “... they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made.”
Here is the only way I know to even attempt to keep God first: Begin your day with God - each day. Not with the news or getting online or even with breakfast or exercise. Begin your day by reading some of Holy Scripture. Begin your day with being quiet and listening for God’s still, small voice to say something to you. Begin your day with a prayer that asks for God to lead you through your day, as you make the most of your opportunities to love and to serve... to make others at least as important as you make yourself, or your favorite cause.
And then, if you really want to make God first in your life, make it a point to be on the lookout for God’s word and God’s grace as you continue throughout your day, all the way until you turn in for the night.
I believe God is still calling us to make God the greatest focus and the greatest part of our lives. If we do that, we can’t help but be led into love for all people and the earth, too - for God is love.
Yes, strive for the kingdom of God first, and everything else will be given to you as well.