One of the benefits of traveling is building a portfolio of good stories. Unfortunately, most of those stories are about the challenges of traveling.
I remember, for instance, a flight that went through Shreveport, Louisiana. The first person in my security check looked at my picture ID. She examined it carefully, looked at me, looked back at the card, and took the time to tell me the date that my license would expire. Then I came to the line of people waiting to have their luggage checked. A man was helping passengers put their items on the security line before x-ray. He asked if I was carrying any hazardous substances. "No sir."
He continued, "Are you carrying any weapons?" And we went through a whole battery of a dozen similar questions. Then he turned to my sweet wife and asked her the same things.
After his interrogation, we went through the metal detector. We had to remove everything that was not made of fabric. Then they pulled my wife out of the line and took her to a different location, where a female security guard went through every item in Patsy's purse and cosmetic case.
I said, "Wow this is amazing! Is there some big military installation or a drug traffic drop-off in this area? What is so important that there are such top security measures?"
A security official said, "Really, we don't have that much traffic, so there just isn't much else to do."
In another instance, I was traveling through Orlando, Florida, when I got "tagged" in the security line for additional screening.
"Why do you do that?" I asked, as a security official swabbed my bags.
"We're testing for explosives."
"Really? I always thought you used that to test for drugs," I said.
He said, "We used to, but we don't care about that anymore."
For most of us, our lives are more like the Orlando airport. We're too busy to check every little detail. We live at a hectic pace, balancing a heavy load of demands from family, church, friends, work, charitable organizations, and recreation. Add economic pressures, and many of us are out of bandwidth. We have to prioritize.
What Are Priorities, and Why Do They Matter?
Everyone lives by priorities. Basically, a priority is something to which we assign a degree of importance or urgency. When we prioritize, we arrange items or tasks by their order of importance. That process matters, because frankly, if I don't decide what is important for me, someone else will.
Jesus is our model for setting priorities in business and life. Jesus was the undisputed rock star of His day. People mobbed Him. Sometimes He was so overwhelmed by people that the Bible says He didn't even have time to eat. They wouldn't even let Him pray in peace.
As Jesus was growing in popularity, Luke 4:42-44 says, "At daybreak, Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, 'I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.' And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea" (Luke 4:42-44).
Jesus made His decisions on the basis of His priorities, not His pressures. He knew His calling, His "reason for living." That helped Him understand what was important and what wasn't. And because of that, Jesus said "no" to the people who wanted Him to change His plan--even though what they wanted wasn't a bad thing. Jesus just had a different reason for living.
The big idea is this: When compared to nonbelievers, my priorities as a Christian are motivated by an altogether different reason for living.
My purpose is wrapped up in growing God's kingdom and tending His culture--not building my empire. And my list of priorities--the guiding principles that help me decide where to invest time and energy--should reflect that difference.
Recently I had a business meeting with two incredibly moral, ethical people. But during the meeting, it became clear they had a ceiling on their reasons for living--to make a living, make money, and be personally fulfilled. They were limited to reaching the top of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
Those two people had an altogether different reason for being at that meeting than I did. We were pursuing the same deal but for different reasons.
When I am in a business meeting, the reason I am there is to participate in the abundant life--to give, to serve, to receive God's blessings, and to bring glory to God by my actions, as He sovereignly brings people into right relationship with Him and others.
Work is a high priority. For Christians, however, work is one among a plethora of priorities. Of course, lots of Christians get the work priority out of whack. That's probably because it takes up the single largest block of our time.
Jesus Defined Our Reason for Living
Understanding our purpose is one of the crucial issues in determining priorities. We're going to look a little more deeply at Jesus' teachings on how our purpose relates to work. Let's examine a number of verses that draw a general picture of why and how we should live.
Let's start in the Gospel of John, which records Jesus saying, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).
My reason for living is to receive abundant life from Jesus. There are many aspects to this, but that overarching principle affects all of my decisions--personal and professional.
When I am in a business meeting, I intend to give and receive God's blessings, so I can serve and bring glory to God by my actions. Sure, I'm working on a deal. But I also know bigger things are happening in that meeting. God is working all things for His glory. I know the sovereign, supreme ruler of all creation is interested in the outcome of that appointment. Without God, a person does not have that assurance.
Do you see how the Christian worldview is utterly different from that of the skeptic? If your sense of purpose is limited to making a profit, you'll eventually find it's a puny, tepid reason for living. Once you've known the glories and riches of God's kingdom, how could you ever settle for mere profit?
The abundant life provides a much greater reason for living, but it also turns our value system upside-down. Our natural tendency is to seek personal gain. But Jesus walked a very different road.
Even though Jesus is one with the Father, in His humanity He "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross" (Philippians 2:6-8).
By personal experience, Jesus understood self-denial. Through His example and through His words, He taught His disciples--including us--to value things of eternal consequence over temporal pleasure and gain. And he called His followers to live by the priorities He demonstrated when He lived on earth. He said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matthew 16:24-27).
He said, "Seek first his kingdom and his righ-teousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33). We are not limited by the "ceiling" of temporal living. We have a higher purpose--to seek His kingdom and His righteousness.
This article was adapted from A Man's Guide to Work by Patrick Morley. For more information go to maninthemirror.org.