When I was in junior high or high school, I tried out for the track and field team. It was a small school, and everyone got in, including those without much athletic talent (i.e., me!). I don’t think that I ever placed (unless there weren’t enough people to fill the winning slots ahead of me), but it was still good to try something.
Whether in sports or in gym class, though, I generally feared the hurdles. If I didn’t make it over (which happened more than it should have), I was likely to painfully crack my shin on the hurdle, and feel the bruise for a while.
So, for that reason (and probably because I lacked athletic ability in general), I was relegated to other events.
In a parable that Jesus shared, he tells about those who were invited to a banquet:
But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
Luke 14:18-20 NLT
Looked at locally, these weren’t bad things for the guests to be doing. If they weren’t expected to join the banquet that day, their other activities would have been ok on other days. After all, who wouldn’t want to have a look at a major purchase of property (although, I would think, checking it out before making the purchase might be wiser)? In the same way, trying out the plowing capacity of recently-acquired oxen (or, these days, a tractor) is perfectly understandable. And, who would fault someone for prioritizing a new spouse over a neighbor?
Still, if we read the rest of the story, we find that these potential guests missed out on something. The privilege of eating at that banquet ended up being extended to those who probably didn’t get invited to social events very often. The host ended up bringing in people who were isolated, disabled, and poor, to eat at his table.
In the same way, we each have our own hurdles to following God as fully as we should.
- Our wealth. Certainly money and things can be used for good. We should be good stewards of the wealth that God has entrusted to us. It should be carefully managed, generously shared, and wisely invested for His kingdom. When maintenance of our wealth gets in the way of our relationship with God, though, we have given the material world the wrong priority in our lives.
- Our work. We are called to work earnestly. That may mean earning a living and sharing the extra with those in need, to the glory of God. It may mean serving without a paycheck, in order to spread the love that Jesus demonstrated to us. When the job – no matter how noble – becomes an obstacle between us and even greater things, though, we have forgotten that it is a means to an end.
- Our relationships. Jesus, our perfect example, demonstrated that cultivating healthy relationships with others is righteous and God-honoring. However, when we start to prioritize people-pleasing over making a true investment in them (for their abundant life here on earth and in heaven), we miss out on other blessings that God offers us.
I appreciate that discerning the difference between good things and better things is complicated. What God calls us to do one day, may need to take second place to something else the next day. There are times that God chooses to use us through our wealth, our work, and our relationships; yet there are moments, hours, or days when He calls us to just spend time with Him, feasting around the table of fellowship with the One we love.
As I have written before, I cannot tell you exactly what God wants you to do today. However, I can challenge you (and myself) to pray earnestly that He will show us what “lane” we each need to currently be running in, which hurdles need to be jumped over, and which ones we need to remove from someone else’s lane!
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.