What are your priorities? That’s a question we hear all the time, isn’t it? It’s a question we often ponder when we think about what’s really most important in our lives. But if you had asked that question 150 years ago — or perhaps even 100 years ago — it would likely be met with a blank stare or a puzzled expression, and then answered with another question: What do you mean, priorities?
When the word “priority” came into English language around the year 1400, it was singular — and stayed that way for 500 years. The word “priority” only meant “first.” It meant THE first thing.
Today, of course, we hear the word in its plural form all the time. In fact, linguists estimate that the plural form of the word “priority” is used today with five times the frequency it was in the 1950s.
If it’s true that our language is a reflection of important shifts in our culture — who we are — then what does the dramatic increase of the use of this word in its plural form say about us? Can we really have more than one priority?
In his bestselling book, Essentialism, author Greg McKeown writes, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything” (emphasis added). When Lawton Ursrey interviewed McKeown for Forbes Magazine on the subject of priorities, he summarized the essentialist mindset as: “the art of discerning between external noise and internal voice. It’s not a task and time management tactical list. It’s more than that. It’s a mindset — a way of life.”
Oddly enough, that’s exactly the mindset Jesus was describing in the Sermon on the Mount, where he says pretty plainly, [Matthew 6:33] “Desire first and foremost God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.”
Do we have so many non-essential things pulling at us that we think are of first importance that we name them all as our priorities? Are we so unclear about what is most important in the fret and jar of our day-to-day life that we resort to the plural so we don’t have to make a single choice?
As Christians, how should we prioritize? What does that even mean?
In a culture of too many and conflicting “first things,” how do we express our foremost desire for God’s Kingdom and righteousness?
We’ll wrestle with this together on Sunday in our Sanctuary worship services.
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster