Fox Byte #19:  Rusty Priorities

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Tevye the Milkman Chaim Topol in Norman Jewison's 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof
Chaim Topol as Tevye the Milkman in Norman Jewison’s 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof

What kind of good fruit does Yeshua expect His followers to produce?  The kind that produces lasting change for good.  That’s what He meant when He said we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).

But does it really work that way in the lives of Yeshua’s followers?  When we get right down to it, the uncomfortable answer is no.  We have other priorities that crowd out our good intentions to follow God.  Many of those priorities are necessities, such as providing food, clothing, and shelter for ourselves and those we love.  Yeshua said something about that:  He told us God knows we need these things, and that He would provide them for us (Matthew 6:25-34).  We do need to take action and gather the provision God has made for us, and that is why a responsible person looks for work, learns to cook, buys or makes clothes, and other things that translate God’s provision into meeting our daily needs.

Satisfying these needs is not the problem.  The problem arises when going after these necessities becomes our obsession.  It gets worse when we go after more than just necessities and start making comfort and pleasure our goal.  Where does that leave God on our priority list?  There’s a Jewish example that helps us with this question.

In Fiddler on the Roof, a milkman named Tevye leads us through the story of his community in the Russian village of Anatevka.  Early in the play Tevye sings If I Were A Rich Man, describing what he would do if God allowed him to have a little money to provide a better life for his family.  Near the end of the song Tevye sings this:

If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack

To sit in the synagogue and pray.

And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.

And I’d discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.

That would be the sweetest thing of all.

Obviously Tevye loves God and wants to get more connected to Him.  However, he voices this desire only after singing about using his fortune to build a big house that people will admire, get servants so his wife will not have to do any work, and gain status as an important man.  Tevye’s priority is in satisfying the desires of his flesh rather than the desires of his God.  If he were really serious about living for God, he would make time for Him in his daily life.  And that means a lot of quality time, not five minutes of routine devotional and prayer according to tradition or habit.  Throughout the play it’s clear that that’s about all Tevye does.  Even though he carries on a continuous dialogue with God, his references to “the Good Book” are often mixed up, misquoted, and misapplied.  He doesn’t really let the Word of God penetrate his heart and change his life.  He is still living according to his own strength and wisdom.  That’s why we can be sure that even though Tevye may one day find his fortune, he will probably never find the time he lacks to sit in the synagogue and pray.

Are we any better than Tevye?  Does God get more than routine and lip service from us?  If He were our priority we would be making time for Him now instead of going about our daily lives in hope of finding time for Him later.  Unless we make Him a priority, we will never be any different from the people in this world who know nothing of the Bible, care nothing of God’s commandments, and profess nothing more about Yeshua than that He was a good teacher.  That’s what Yeshua meant when He said:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV)

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© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014.  Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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