God – Spouse – Discipleship ?

I sat across my office from a superior in my denomination.  He explained that as pastors our first responsibility is a personal relationship with God; second, is the relationship with our spouse; third is “ministry.”

Now, I’m not going to say that his belief is untrue.  I’ve heard it over and over among many church leaders of our day.  But what I will ask is simple: Where is such a belief outlined in the Bible?  Especially for a pastor?

No one has ever been able to explain it to me from the Scriptures.

The Apostle Paul wrote 3 letters directly to young pastors on how to live their lives and serve God and His people.  They are First and Second Timothy and Titus.  Yet this priority list of God first, spouse second, ministry somewhere down the line is nowhere to be found in Paul’s letters or the New Testament.  If it is, someone better versed in the Bible should clearly outline it with Scripture.

How is it possible to separate a relationship with God from serving God?  Can a person wholeheartedly believe in him yet divorce that belief from service?  Is it possible to say, “Hey, God.  I have this super relationship with you … but I’m not going to do anything about it until after I’ve met these other demands.  Once I’ve fulfilled my obligations to serve my spouse, and serve my employer, and serve my nation, and serve my children, then I’ll serve You.”

I’ll continue this line of thought in my next post, but let me end with this interesting statement by the Founder of Christianity – Jesus.  If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.  And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple  (Luke 14:26-27).  Seems that following His commands as a disciple takes priority over every human relationship.

What do you think?


About Richard L Rice

Just an ordinary, balding, blind guy, making my way to Heaven by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone. Richard L Rice has been an ordained minister since 1986, and pastored 6 churches. A graduate of Multnomah School of the Bible (Portland, OR) and Abilene Bible Seminary (Abilene, KS), Richard is the author of numerous books, including commentaries on Matthew, Romans, the Minor Prophets, and the Pastoral Epistles of Paul. He is the pastor of a congregation in Portland, Oregon, and serves on the faculty of the Berean School of Ministry in Tala, Kenya. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife Kimberly and son Daniel. Further details about him can be found written on the pages of his blog.
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4 Responses to God – Spouse – Discipleship ?

  1. Good stuff, Richard. Of course, Paul’s companions were all unmarried. Paul does say in 1 Cor. 7 that, “He that is married cares for the things of the world, how he may please his wife.” He doesn’t make a value judgment; just states a fact. It’s just a reality.

    Regarding priorities, it seems to me that if God is our one and only, no second, no third, then through him, we will love others better than we could ever do otherwise. The priorities mindset causes people to continually spin plates, perpetually compensating and coming short, never present in a given moment. At least in my experience.

    • Richard L Rice says:

      I agree with the whole “priority” discussion. A pastor’s priority is following Jesus and preaching/teaching the truth of God. But I don’t want to give away too much concerning my next post, so let me just offer the following to consider until then:

      “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers or the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?” First Corinthians 9:5-6.

      Were not Aquila and Priscilla both traveling companions, evangelists/teachers/pastors, and married?

      And what of the bishop/overseer/pastor/elder/deacon requirement of being “the husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2, 11 and Titus 1:6)?

      Thanks for reading, and I do, honestly, value your thoughts and insights.

  2. “How is it possible to separate a relationship with God from serving God?” That is a great question!

  3. When we see with the eyes of Christ, there is only One; serving all is serving Christ; breathing is a spiritual practice, every breath is worshiping God; there is only One and Christ’s Light is shining above, in and through all things and all people. Serving the least is serving the Most High. There is only Christ Spirit who fills all, and is all in all. God bless you in your ministry!

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