Many Christian husbands have struggled with this very important question. Should my wife come first? Should my children come first? Should my job come first? Should my ministry come first? Should my country come first? Should my health come first?
In my last article “The Five Biblical Priorities of a Christian Man” we established that God has given us as Christian men these five priorities – God, Family, Church, Country and Work.
In this article we will discuss Biblical principles that will help guide us in how to juggle these five priorities.
The difference between juggling and ordering priorities
Generally speaking when you “order” something you are setting a group of things in a set order. That order once established does not change. But when you are juggling a group of things, the order is constantly changing.
For the Christian husband the only priority that never changes its order is God. God is his foundation and that never changes.
“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – I Corinthians 3:11 (KJV)
God is always to be our number one focus – his will and his purposes for our life must always be first.
But while we as Christian men must stand on our foundation in God we are still called by God to juggle these other four priorities of Family, Church, Country and Work.
What that means is at some moments our top priority may be our ministry at our local church.
But in another moment our wife or our children may be our top priority.
Still another time perhaps our parents or another relative may be our top priority.
If our country is attacked and we are called to war to defend it, then our country becomes our top priority at that time.
Every day when we go to work for those 8 or 10 hours a day our job becomes our top priority during that time.
Again let me remind the reader that when I say “top priority” this means our most important priority that is second only to our loyalty and service to God and his will.
Four Biblical principles for juggling priorities
Principle #1 – Don’t do things for people that they should do for themselves
We should not do things for people that they should could be reasonably expected to do for themselves. If we do we could possibly be enabling the sin of laziness.
“Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
For every man shall bear his own burden.” – Galatians 6:2-5 (KJV)
Many Christians are confused when they come to this passage. In verse 2 Paul tells us to bear each other’s burdens and then in verse 5 he says every man should bear his own burden?
The first “burdens” in verse 2 is a translation of the Greek word “Baros” which means a heavy weight and troublesome burden. The second “burden” in verse 5 is a translation of the Greek word “Phortion” which in this context refers to a “load” like a freight container.
So what this passage of Scripture is saying is – we as Christians should help those around us with true burdens, true needs – things that they could not reasonably be expected to bare on their own. But people should be able to carry their own loads and carry their own weight.
Principle #2 – Don’t over commit to any priority
While we as Christian husbands and fathers are to try and model how God is a husband to the church and how God is a father to his children we must realize that we are NOT God. We cannot be everywhere as God can be and we do not have the limitless resources that God has. This means we have to be good stewards of the limited time, energy and financial resources that God has given us.
“Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:16 (KJV)
“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” – Psalm 90: 12 (KJV)
We can over-commit to any of our priority areas. If a man spends too much time with his family and does not work that does not honor God. If a man spends too much time working and not enough time with his family that does not honor God. If we spend too much time with our family but spend no time at our local church and do not regularly attend services then we are not honoring God.
Principle #3 – Ask God for wisdom to determine if the needs of two priorities are equal
If we are confronted with multiple legitimate needs from two or more of our priority areas at the same time then we need to pray and use discernment to determine which need is most important at that moment.
“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” – James 1:5 (KJV)
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:17 (KJV)
Principle #4 – Order matters when the needs of priorities are equally important
When all things are equal – meaning both the needs of two or more priority areas are real and equal then we must use God’s order of importance to decide where we will allocate our time and resources. Our family’s needs come before our local church’s needs or our employer’s needs. In the priority of our family, our wife’s needs come before our children’s needs.
Applying these principles to real life situations
The reason we cannot order our priorities (put them in a fixed order that never changes) is because that is not the reality of how life works. Instead in most cases we must “juggle” our priorities instead.
Imagine if you are at your job and you spent the entire day talking on the phone to your wife. Now at that point you are making your wife feel like an important priority, but you are at the same time failing to make your work a priority.
The reverse could be said as well. If you as a man are constantly bringing your work home with you and never spending anytime at home talking to your wife and children but rather you are always working then you would be failing to make your family a priority.
Going back to the work scenario – what if you work in a job that sometimes requires you to work off hours. Perhaps you are a plumber who occasionally goes on 24 hour call. That means during that period that if someone has a plumbing problem, no matter if it is 3 AM – you have to go and service that customer. So during that 24 hour period your work trumps all other priorities. If your wife does not feel like you getting out of bed at 3 AM and tells you to call in, you have to tell her “No”.
But what if you are on 24 hour call for your plumbing company and your wife falls and breaks her ankle where she is need of medical assistance? In this case your wife’s emergency is a higher priority than an emergency at your job and in that case you may have to call in to your employer to get it covered by another worker.
Let’s say you and your wife are having an important discussion and you hear gunshots across the street and see that your neighbor has been shot? What is the greatest priority at that moment? Your wife or getting your neighbor medical assistance? Of course we understand that getting our neighbor medical assistance is the most important priority in that moment.
Perhaps you have just had back surgery and you must be very careful not to physically exert yourself or you risk causing damage to your back. You may not be able to work or do the duties you usually would around the house for some time and that needs to be ok. There are going to be sometimes that your health and recovery come before other priority areas.
There could be multiple examples where one priority bumps into another. And unless the needs are equal, the priority with the greatest need at that moment must be met. At the same time we cannot let any of our priorities completely fall through the cracks.
Juggling the priorities that God has given us as Christian men is not an easy task. Often times we are conflicted and we need to seek God’s will each and every day to know where to use our limited time and resources. Sometimes we may get resistance from a priority area that feels slighted. Maybe our manager at work feels we did not need to take time off for a family issue or maybe our manager does not like that we won’t work on Sundays. Maybe our wife felt we are working too much, but we know at this time it is necessary to do. Maybe our church friends don’t understand why we don’t do as much at church as we used to because of work and family commitments.
We need to realize that every day of our life will bring different challenges that are constantly changing where we will be asked to allocate our time and our resources. In the end we must seek the Lord’s wisdom and look at the priorities and order of importance he has given us.