The fact that God wants to be first is obvious throughout scripture. What was the first thing that God said to the people of Israel as he spoke from Mount Sinai? “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). These words are directly followed by what has become known as the first of Ten Commandments. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). It is as if God says, “You need to recognize who I am…don’t be mistaken about my identity…I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before me.”
In Jesus day there was no debate over the greatest commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” (Mark 12:30). This foundational teaching, and its importance, can be seen in the lives of men and women throughout the Bible. One such example is Elijah and the story which is told of the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17. This widow heard the request of Elijah, and put her love for God on display. Above all, she was seeking to do God’s will. Jesus says, “…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). This text asks a question: Who are you first? And this text makes a promise: You don’t lose what you give God first.
Who are you first? Well, I am many things and you are too. I am a man, Christian, husband, father, son, brother, friend, minister, golfer…among many others. The ordering of our lives is often a great challenge. At times, we have loyalties we can’t see past. Many of our loyalties get in the way of our putting God first. It seems that we take care of everyone else, then honor God with what is leftover. Our thinking is often clouded to reality. It is like the teenage girl who can’t see that the guy she likes is a loser. For whatever reason, we can’t seem to understand that regardless of the many relational connections and loyalties we have, our relationship with God towers above them all.
While we feel pressure from all our loyalties, God still asks us to be a Christian first. It is such a blessing to know that we will not lose what we give to God! This is the key to understanding why God asks to be first. Submitting our lives to God and his will frees us to receive the many blessings that flow from a life of selfless service. God wants to be first in our lives.
The God we serve is represented as a “jealous God.” “You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Exodus 20:5). “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Sometimes we see God’s wanting to be first as selfish. But when it comes to us…well, when we put ourselves first we think, “Surely I’m just supposed to be happy…and surely God wants me to have what I want…” “You will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).
So the question for all of us is, “Are we seeking God with all our heart and with all our soul? Malachi 3:10 says, “‘Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.’” Let’s put God first. Let’s seek first his kingdom. Let’s put him to the test. He calls for it. He says, “Come see for yourself.”