First Things First

The Bible includes helpful ideas on how to prioritize the events of each day. Here are five topics that will help focus your family on what is important. Parents and children, both, will benefit from timely reminders to put first things first!

By Caryl W. Krueger

Categories: Guidance

A familiar admonition from parents to youngsters is, "You must learn to put first things first!" Instead of school work, piano practice, or feeding the dog, kids often get sidetracked into other activities. These pursuits may be perfectly acceptable at the right time, but often they should not be the priority of the moment.

The Bible is an excellent guide for parents and it includes helpful ideas on how to prioritize the events of the day. Just what do you think are the most important activities, and what do the writers of the Bible have to say about them? Here are five topics that will help focus your family on what is important.

To increase knowledge

We all hope our kids are learning - not just "getting along." Paul advises young Timothy (II Timothy 2:15, 16): "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."

Certainly school assignments should take priority - there is no shame in mastering skills and adding to one's knowledge base. In contrast, many video games and TV shows lean heavily on profanity and babbling in an effort to grab a young person's attention.

Research shows that a good early education results in a more satisfying and useful life. So we should appreciate knowledge, encourage learning, talk about it at dinner, make educational family excursions more than trips to the amusement park. And we should increase in knowledge ourselves, which keeps us abreast of current events and trends right along side our children. It's fun to make it a daily practice to ask your family what's new -- what one new thing they each learned that day.

To enjoy good, honest relationships

Time should be spent bonding with one's family and cultivating good friends. In II Peter 1: 5-7, it gives an excellent list of qualities that we should express. Some are: diligence, patience, brotherly kindness, charity. Ask family members what these mean and how they are important within the family and in the community. Consider the deeper meaning of Jesus' "new Commandment" in John 13:34: ....."love one another." Share examples of kindness, purity, honesty - make up little stories and ask kids what they would do in those circumstances.

Relationships with friends and family should be based on these qualities, and these qualities will then strengthen the relationship over the years. How can we lose a friend or feel distant from a relative if we're comfortable expressing charity and honesty (to name just two of many lasting qualities)?

To understand the importance of spirituality

In a world immersed in materiality, having "things" and money to spend can quash true treasures. Do we really rely on Jesus' advice (John 12: 29-32)? " not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things, but rather seek ye the kingdom of God: and all these things shall be added unto you."

This is an echo of Micah 6:8 which encourages a spiritual view of life: "..."what doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." Just what does "doing justly" and "walking humbly" mean and how can it be done by youngsters?

From the age of toddlers to the day a young adult moves out, make it a family tradition to worship together and to pray daily, especially when there is a challenge. Encourage the sharing of experiences that show the power of prayer.

To express respect for authority

Most kids know the Commandments! But do they know how they pertain to life today? One God is the true authority. Parents should be honored. The Sabbath should be held sacred. The law is our authority to not steal (even steal an answer for a test or plagiarize a paper) or kill (with a withering look, or kill - scuttle - someone else's plan). But we usually don't pay much attention to the command against graven images. God gives us the authority to reject false images and the worship of things like illicit drugs, suggestive clothing, and inappropriate "role models" – all of which lure us away from goodness and purity in thought and action.

Teach that kids have authority over their own bodies and cannot be coerced into destructive habits. The Psalmist says, (Psalm 119:133): " Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me." That's quite a good prayer!

To work in an orderly way

Kids tend toward irresponsibility if they don't express order. Some areas of life require a good procedure - learning to play a difficult game, finishing a large project, sticking to a math concept. As it says in Isaiah 28:10:" For precept must be upon precept,.....line upon a little and there a little." That doesn't mean we don't want spontaneity at the right moment. A poem (also a hymn) by John Greenleaf Whittier says "...step by step, since time began, We the steady gain of man." And that steady gain is for youngsters, too. Show how orderliness saves time in locating possessions, doing good homework, being on time, and having more opportunities for free-choice time.

I'm sure you can think of more. Why not choose one of these challenges this month? Perhaps you can post the goal on your bulletin board or refrigerator and talk about it at supper. Character building is a top item on your parental duties list. See that you, yourself, know how to put first things first - like working with your children on some of these timeless and essential issues!