God first, family second, and then service in the ministry

Can we separate love for God from service to God? Many seem to think so but that is not what the Scriptures teach. Unfortunately, in the Evangelical world, the title of this article is a common mantra. I do not believe that it is correct, nor Biblical. According to the Scriptures, we cannot separate love for God from service to God.

I. Jesus’ understanding

We see this idea of love/service being one and the same taught to us by Jesus Christ, Himself, when He was asked what the Greatest Commandment in the Scriptures was. Let’s take a look at His answer.

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law ?” 37 And He said to him, ” ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40 “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22)

Here is what Jesus had in mind:

  • Heart – vigor, passion, emotions, strength, abilities, capabilities (use your life to serve God)
  • Soul – the very breath that you have, your life, your will
  • Mind – reasoning skills, understanding

According to Jesus’ answer, it is impossible to love God without serving Him. So, when we follow the formula “God, family, service” you actually turn your family into an idol and your relationship with God will be hindered, and ultimately, your relationships within your family will suffer.

II. Joshua’s understanding

Jesus’ understanding was not anything new. He actually quoted from the Old Testament when giving this teaching. Joshua, one of Moses’ greatest disciples, learned this idea of not separating love for God from service to God, from Moses, himself. Joshua was in the twilight of his years. He had traveled from slavery to freedom and now there was a great temptation to become content and no longer work so hard to serve the Lord. This was not Joshua’s choice. He used the opportunity to teach the people to continue loving and serving the Lord.

15“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves todaywhom you will serve: whether the godswhich your fathersservedwhich were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whoseland you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24)

Notice that Joshua chooses to serve the Lord with his house. The word “house” in this passage does not refer to the building. It refers to the members of his family. Joshua understood that God, family, and service cannot be separated or placed into a nice convenient order. We keep God first by teaching our family members to serve Him with us. We do not separate our family from service.

III. Priscilla and Aquila’s understanding

These two people formed a family. The were Jews living in Rome. The Emperor Claudius practiced antisemitism by forcing all of the Jews out of Rome. Priscilla and Aquila relocated to Corinth where they met the Apostle Paul. They were tent makers like Paul was and they met in the market place. Paul shared the Gospel with them and they were born again. Because of their Jewish heritage, they were very familiar with the Old Testament and God obviously gave them the Spiritual Gift of teaching. They immediately begin to serve. They traveled with Paul to Ephesus, teaching the Scriptures. Paul left Priscilla and Aquila in Ephesus to serve the local body of believers. While in Ephesus, they met Apollos, a great speaker, trained in the Scriptures but in need of some direction. Priscilla and Aquila take him under their tutelage and explain the Scriptures to him more clearly. Apollos went on to Corinth to equip the believers in the Word, continuing the work that Paul had begun there. At the end of Romans 16, we find Priscilla and Aquila putting there lives back on the line in Rome, leading the church that met in their home. Priscilla and Aquila did not separate love from service. They loved the Lord with all that they were and demonstrated that love through their service.

I want to end this article with the Apostle John’s warning to all believers:

21 Little children, guard yourselves from idols. (I John 5)

May we never turn our families, beautiful gifts from God, into our idols that distort our relationship with God and with each other.

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