Misplaced priorities

Misplaced priorities: What is of first importance?

This essay describes my personal repentance and our need for national repentance and asserts that if we put anything ahead of God our priorities are misplaced.

By Harlan Brown
Aug. 9, 2011

I've been praying for spiritual revival here in the United States of America. I believe that our sins are leading to God's judgment and that the judgment has already begun.

God's judgment on America

In the book Is God on America's Side?, Erwin W. Lutzer wrote in 2007 of a friend who asked him, “Do you think that God will judge America for its sins?”

Lutzer described his response:

I assured him that, yes, of course God will judge America for her sins; but there was no need to pry into the future. The judgments for our sins are already happening. When it comes to the consequences for our sins, the future has already begun! We usually think that God's judgment is most clearly seen in war, natural disasters, or terrorist attacks. But there is another form of judgment that is even more evident: It is simply the accumulated consequences of our sins.

Lutzer gives examples of consequences. First he cites the destruction of our families:

God is judging our families ... for our immorality and divorce through the breakup of the family. Twenty million children live without a father in the home, and therefore cope with all of the devastating emotional and developmental consequences.”
Incredibly, one in every one hundred adult Americans is now in prison—that makes 2.3 million behind bars. Michael Singletary, retired Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears gives his testimony in prisons. He says he asks the prisoners, “How many of you had a warm relationship with your father?” He recently reported that he is still waiting for the first hand to be raised.

Lutzer's second example is the loss of the knowledge of God:

The judgment for a nation's ongoing sins can be that other religions and ideologies pollute the knowledge of the true God and paganism thrives.
Today in America the knowledge of the true God is being eclipsed by our so-called tolerant culture, which is viscerally intolerant of anyone who believes he or she has found some religious truth.

A worsening crisis

Since 2007 our sins have intensified, and so have our national problems. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2009, more than 7.2 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole—3.1% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 32 adults. As of August 2011, a 40-year trend of increasing prison population appears to be reversing not because of decreasing crime but because of economic pressure and resultant changes in sentencing and parole reforms.

The recent downgrading of the U.S. government's credit rating from AAA to AA-plus is an indicator of an unhealthy economy. The rating cut is the natural outcome of the decision to increase borrowing rather than cut spending. More than $2 trillion of debt plus interest is being added to the already heavy burden of more than $14 trillion in debt.

And the $14 trillion is just the fiscal burden of money borrowed. It does not count unfunded liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare, which amounts to $60 trillion. Recently, former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker warned that the United States is only three years away from becoming another Greece. Walker told CNBC, ‘We are less than three years away from where Greece had its debt crisis as to where they were from debt to GDP.”

Such a crisis does not occur in a vacuum. Moral and spiritual factors contribute to our present situation. (See “The Onion Hypothesis of Economics.”) I believe that if we do not change course, our free nation is headed for destruction.


And so I have been praying. I have been praying for a spiritual revival so that our nation will not be destroyed. We need to repent of idolatry, murder, sexual immorality, and other sins.

But last night I began to question my priorities, and the issue has come into sharper focus today. I still love my country and do not want to see it destroyed. We all need to repent daily. I do not want to see myself, my loved ones, or others suffer. However, I have come to see that my priorities were wrong. We need spiritual awakening not primarily to prevent the destruction of our republic. We need spiritual awakening primarily because God is worthy of worship. He is worthy of first priority. I'm reminded of the poem “What Musical Instrument Does God Never Play?”:

God made all and does what He decides.
He rules all; in Heaven He resides.
He can play a clarinet or flute,
Or a lively trumpet he can toot.
But one instrument He never plays,
Doesn't play it ever all His days.
What's the answer to this puzzling riddle?
What God never plays is second fiddle.

God alone is worthy of worship. The Creator God who made the heavens and the earth out of nothing is greater than we can comprehend. He who knows all and sees all is utterly unique. The One who created time and space, energy and matter became flesh and dwelt among us, taking on the form of a servant for our sakes. We love Him because He first loved us. Words fall short of describing his greatness.

When we come into a right relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us, and lives are transformed. If God grants America another Great Awakening, praise be to Him! If He decides to allow us to bring calamity on ourselves, He is still righteous and holy.

We need a spiritual revival not primarily to save our own skins but to honor the One who deserves our worship. I repent of my wrong priorities. I pray that our nation (and indeed the whole world) will do likewise.

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