What Will You Choose?

Decisions, decisions. Life always presents you with choices; you may not like the choices, but they're always there.
What the most important aspect of your life?

Perhaps you thought of your family or your friends, people you love and intend to love for the rest of your life. Maybe you thought of your career or a passion you have hopes of succeeding with (such as art or music). Maybe you're a humanitarian and you thought of the service you do for community, the children you mentor, or the elderly you care for. I wonder how many people thought of God?

What I Spend the Day Thinking Of

As much as we'd like to deny it, God is not at the forefront of our minds 24/7. How often we think about Him varies from person to person. You might expect believers to think about God much more than non-believers, since we claim He hold ultimate priority in our lives. You might even think we would think about Him more than any other topic. When I attempted to plot out what I think about each day and how much time I spend thinking on the topic (shown to the left), I realized an interesting nuance to representing how we should be thinking about God.

In the pie chart to the left, there's a slice dedicated to how much time is spent thinking of God, but it implies this time is separate from the other topics. We can think about God while thinking of other aspects of our life. In fact, all of these topics can overlap. We should have God evenly sprinkled in each area of our thoughts. When I start making decisions or plans with my friends, God should be included; when I study for class, God should be included. Most of us who have been believers already know this, though.

This concept is illustrated in the phrase "giving honor to God who's first and foremost in my life." If you grew up in a Black church or watched enough awards shows, this is a familiar phrase. I was never a fan of the phrase, perhaps I disliked the disingenuity of a canned phrase. It always felt like something people say because they're supposed to, not because they actually feel moved to by the Spirit (emphasis on the word felt, who am I to say what goes through people's minds or hearts as they speak). Regardless of what people mean or feel as they speak the words I want to talk about the idea and the practice of putting God first in our lives and incorporating Him in all areas of our life.

We live in a society that decries religion as something that is supposed to be contained in one's personal space. Many will tell you it doesn't have a place in public spaces or in the workplace; it's even one of the topics you aren't supposed to discuss in polite conversation. This worldly mentality makes it easy to push God out of certain aspects of our lives. We have been conditioned to sacrifice God to succeed in the world, despite His Word telling us that we are not of the world.
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.John 17:14 KJV
When I started keeping the Sabbath according to the Bible, I started to notice just how difficult it is to separate yourself from the world and how much the enemy has programmed our brains against putting God first. It's not that we are consciously denying God or purposefully putting something before Him. Instead we have been taught not to see anything wrong with our actions. Certain actions are considered normal, everyone does them, so we don't even stop to think about what God has already said about this action.

For instance, if I go to a restaurant for supper after church on the Sabbath, it doesn't seem like such a bad thing on the surface. Most people probably don't think anything of the act. Even those who think about the people working at the restaurant may think the workers would work even if they didn't come in or rationalize that they themselves are not working. Some may try to rationalize that the have to eat; after all, Jesus let the the disciples pick grain for themselves during the Sabbath right? However, God tells us that we aren't to require those in our presence to work for us on the Sabbath in Exodus 20:10. At the restaurant the waiter/waitress, host, and chef become our "maidservants" and "menservants." Our money goes to pay for their services, thus we have employed them and required them to serve us during the Sabbath. Furthermore, Nehemiah 10:31 tells we aren't supposed to be buying (or selling) on the Sabbath anyway!

What I mean to say, is a lot of seemingly normal activities or habits we have picked up and think nothing of are actually examples of us subconsciously choosing the world over God.

A friend and I were discussing the issue of working on the Sabbath; this is one of those issues that people are more likely to realize is a conflict and confront directly. My friend took the position that not everyone can have a job that gives them the Sabbath off, our society just doesn't work like that. My friend went on to say if a person needed to feed their family, God would understand them working on the Sabbath.

Photocredit: Tsirogk
Many people take this stance, despite the fact that 50-60 years ago, almost everything was closed during the weekend and everything (except emergency personnel) was closed on Sunday. While Sunday isn't the Sabbath, despite majority of Christians in the world treating it as such, this proves that society functions just fine with these businesses closed for one day. The act of staying open today is merely a keeping up with the Jones effect: they're doing it, so I have to do it too.

From a believer's stand point, much of the confusion on how to behave lies in the contrast of Jesus' examples New Testament and God's commands in the Old Testament. I often hear people quote Jesus' dialogue on the Sabbath to attempt to rationalize not keeping the day holy, so let's take a quick look at the context of these passages. Between God's instructions in the wilderness and the arrival of Jesus, the Jews greatly added to the law.[1][2] Jesus, who blatantly states that He didn't come to destroy the law[5] addresses the problems with some of these extra laws in the New Testament. He reminds us of three areas that permit us to do "work" on the Sabbath: doing good for our fellow man, emergencies, and worshipping the Lord. Each of the areas Jesus permits can be defended via examples from the Old Testament: 1 Samuel 21:1-5, Numbers 28:9-10, and Hosea 6:6.[3][4] Jesus didn't re-writing the Sabbath, He simply clarified what was already written. (A full discussion of this can be found in the post "Keeping the Sabbath Holy.")

So, if we're using the Sabbath as an example, the tricky part of placing God first in our lives stems from the emergency/necessity category. Like my friend suggested, if my job requires me to work on the Sabbath, is that a necessity in the eyes of God? There are people who would say yes. They would say that you need the money to survive, or that refusing to work on the Sabbath may get you fired, therefore it constitutes a necessity. This is where it gets interesting because unless you're an emergency responder, medical provider, or humanitarian (providing for the homeless, elderly, etc.), there's no reason for your boss to require you to work on the Sabbath, except greed.

Retail stores, grocery stores, etc. do not have to be open on the Sabbath. You can't control when you'll get sick or injure yourself. You can't control when lightning will strike your roof and catch the house on fire or when you'll absentmindedly turn on the wrong burner and catch the stove on fire. You can't control when criminals will attack you or break in to your house. As a farmer, I can't control when the cows will bust out of the pen and start wandering, or when their water will freeze and I need to break up the ice so they can drink. These are the types of tasks Jesus reminds us are inevitable. However, you can make time to buy shoes or groceries or carpet or what have you; these tasks do not have to be carried out right that moment and are not urgent. You may have to plan your week out to fit these tasks within the other 6 days of the week, but it's about whether you're willing to put in the effort to plan for God to have 24 hours of your time, not necessity.

Back to the worker my friend mentioned. She probably isn't the boss, and definitely isn't the consumer. She can't individually control the hours the store opens (though collectively, if no one were to be available to work on the Sabbath the owner couldn't operate on the Sabbath...). As my friend pointed out, we aren't all bosses, nor are we all in industries that present us with an Monday through Friday 8-5 work schedule. The truth is, it is very possible that people will deny you work if you tell them you can't work on the Sabbath. I know for a fact that in Clemson, SC you can't get a job at most places downtown or around the city if you're unwilling to work during football games (which coincidentally occur on the Sabbath unless it's a night game). However, there are options of working on campus which don't have the same requirements. You may have to work harder to get one of those jobs, but God will make a way for those following His lead.

I'm not saying it's easy to put God first, it most definitely is not: people will judge, options will disappear. While in the wilderness, the Israelites were always ready to give up. They thought they were better off in bondage than following God, just as we often think it's better to be in sin than on the path to Heaven. Its not an easy road and sin will often look like the better option.

Sometimes these opportunities are obvious no-nos, such as sleeping with a producer to jumpstart your acting career. But what about singing songs with lyrics you don't approve of to jumpstart your singing career? For example, Destiny's Child's sophomore album The Writing's on the Wall has songs like "Confessions" and "If You Leave" which promote adultery, alongside the outro which is gospel. Is it ok to teach evolution above creation because you're a teacher?

The quote that Jesus died so that we could have life more abundantly is often brought up to excuse questionable behaviors or decisions. "My job requires me to do this, so it's ok." Well, if you're job title is hitman, your job requires you to kill people, is that ok? No, God told us not to kill people, and though He may have made exceptions in the Old Testament, Jesus left us with instructions and examples that we are not to kill people today. No Christian would say it was ok for you to be employed as a hitman (though some might say it was ok to have a similar job in the police force, FBI/CIA, or Army).

The ease of the decision when it refers to something such as murder comes from you placing weight on sin. It is the idea that killing someone is worse than breaking the Sabbath. You can't rationalize murder as easily as you can breaking the Sabbath. James 2:10 tells us that breaking the 4th commandment (Exodus 20:8-11) is the same as breaking the 6th commandment (Exodus 20:13).

Your conscience, beliefs, and morals aren't supposed to come 2nd to your job. Contrary to to what the world teaches, you aren't supposed to be aligning your beliefs with the company's beliefs or society's beliefs. You are to stand firm in God's Word.
21From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. 24Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.Matthew 16:21-27 KJV


[1] The 39 Prohibited Sabbath Activities. The Nazarene Way. 2016
[2] Deffinbaugh, Robert L. "16. The Sabbath Controversy in the Gospels". May 2004
[3] Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 1598. 2014
[4] Matthew 12:1-14
[5] Matthew 5:7

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