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The Shepherd's Heart: A contribution -- or a whole hog commitment?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I would like to begin this column with a story I heard just the other day.

It seems a chicken and a pig were walking down the road early in one morning. The chicken was getting kind of hungry. Suddenly, he saw a diner ahead. When they got a little closer he saw a sign that said, "Breakfast Special -- Ham and Eggs -- $1.99."

The chicken turned to the pig and said, "That's a great deal and I'm hungry. Let's go eat."

The pig turned to the chicken and said, "Naw, I don't want to go in there."

The chicken was a little upset. He said, "Look, I'm starving. Let's go in and eat."

The pig said, "No! I don't want to go in there."

By this time they were right outside the diner and the hungry chicken was really getting angry.

"Would you please tell me why you don't want to go eat?" he challenged the pig.

The pig looked at the chicken and said, "It's like this. For you to eat eggs and ham all you have to do is make a contribution. For me, it's whole hog commitment."

Commitment is a word many of us don't really care for.

But as Christians, it's exactly what Jesus is asking from us.

In one passage of scripture, Jesus had a crowd following him to Jerusalem. In the crowd there were a variety of people. They no doubt had various occupations and different degrees of social status. Some of them were probably ill. Like our friend the chicken, some were hungry. Some of them believed in him fully. Some were probably just tagging along. Jesus knew the crowd. He knew some believed and some were just along for the ride.

So he challenged them. He called for total commitment to God. He told them to leave the family behind and pick up their cross and follow. He told them to be sure they want to follow.

Jesus used the opportunity to share parables about counting the cost before entering into a tower-building project and about a king making sure his army could carry the day prior to marching onto the field for battle. These stories were designed to cause his followers, and each of us if we call ourselves Christians, to reflect on two important questions.

(1) Do you know who or what it is you are following?

(2) Are you ready to make God your first commitment?

We need to consider these same questions today. Where are our priorities? Is God first in our lives?

The world we live in has many people, places and things that can draw our priorities away from God. It may be that our families, our jobs, our bank accounts, even the sports activities we like can become our number one priorities. They can wedge their way into our commitment to God.

I'm not saying these activities, or people, are not important, but I think we should ask ourselves where they rank in our lives.

How can we tell where our priorities lie in our lives? We might begin by looking at our schedules. Where do we spend our time? Looking at our schedules may open our eyes to some surprising answers.

Instead of God being our number one priority we may find work is number one. How many hours are we spending in athletic or recreational endeavors? How many hours each week do we spend in front of the television or texting friends or looking at any of the social networking sites available to us?

Let me make sure I'm not being misunderstood.

I am not against families. I am absolutely pro-family. I am not against work. We all have to work. I am not against sports. Those who know me know that I love sports and athletic events and many outdoor activities.

However, when we allow anything to come between our selves and our relationship to God we are challenging our commitment to God. We have made something else in our lives our God. This false God could be a person, our job, a football, a boat or travel trailer, or our checking account. Whatever it is - we sometimes find ourselves putting our relationship with God on the back burner in order to accommodate it.

So, where do our priorities lie? Where does our commitment to God stand? Jesus challenged the disciples on these questions and in our too busy and too frantic world we are challenged with them today. Are we committed to following a living God with our time, our talent and our treasure, or does God simply receive a contribution?

From time to time, I believe we all have to face the possibility that our priorities are out of line. And, occasionally, we are given the opportunity to prioritize our lives and renew our commitments.

What will we do with that opportunity?

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BOB G. STEWART, Columnist
The Shepherd's Heart