Disordered Priorities

I recently read an interview with Dr. Armond Nicholi. Dr. Nicholi is the editor of The Harvard Guide to Psychiatry, and he teaches at both the undergraduate college and at Harvard Medical School. He is a gifted lecturer and maintains an active clinical practice in psychiatry.
In the interview Nicholi says:
I teach people who are just starting out. As Harvard students, they’re all bright to start with, and they often have talents or interests that they’re actively pursuing. But early in the semester I ask them, ‘What is your goal in life?’ Invariably they answer, ‘To be successful.’ So I ask ‘What does that mean to you?’ and their answer has some relationship to fame and fortune.

But then he offers the students another framework. “I tell them we all have a lifespan of about 30,000 days, and we spend about a third of that time sleeping. That means we have a waking lifespan of about 30,000 days, and we spend about a third of that time sleeping. That means we have a waking lifespan of about 20,000 days. Then I say, “If you had twenty days left, what would you do with them?” They universally answer that they would spend that time working on their relationships with family and friends, and if they are people of faith, with their God.”

He lets that soak in for a few days, and then in a subsequent lecture, he suggests to the students that “fame and fortune,” which they claim to want more than anything, are actually in conflict with their highest stated priority of friends and family. They become so intensely focused on what they want to achieve through wealth and glory that they largely neglect the things they value most in life – their relationships.

Nicholi goes on to say that most of these students, nevertheless, forge ahead in their pursuit of fame and fortune. They end up with spouses who are of secondary importance to them, and they have children whom they are not close to. They end up with what Nicholi calls “disordered priorities.”

I am reminded of an incident in the book of Luke in which Jesus is in the home of Martha and Mary. Luke describes it in the tenth chapter (v. 38 – 42)
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to his word.

But Martha was distracted with all her preparations, and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me. But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things, but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Notice the words that were used to describe Martha: “distracted, worried, and bothered.”

Does that ever describe your life? Notice that Jesus’ response to her has nothing to do with right or wrong. It is not a moral issue that He raises with Martha. It is a priority issue. Jesus is revealing that as humans, we get so busy, distracted, and worried about the many trivial issues in life. But only a few things really matter, and there is one thing that should be our highest priority, more important than everything else. And Jesus points to Mary as an example. We see in verse 39, “she was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His Word.”

So Jesus wants us to know that listening to Him and what He has to tell us in His word is the most important priority in life. Not only does He want to impart great wisdom to us, but He wants us to know Him. He wants to be a living reality in our lives.


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