Commands in Conflict

by Andrew Hamilton

"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:37-39)

This is just one of the verses that show us that God is supposed to be the top priority in our lives. But when we say "God comes first," what do we really mean? “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” (Colossians 3:17) Everything we decide to do should be based in what God has authorized.

Sometimes, we have a hard time choosing the right course of action. We look at the many things we want or need to do and try to give them appropriate priorities. But do we always consider God's will in this process?

[Jesus] answered and said to them, "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'Whoever says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God" -- then he need not honor his father or mother.' Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition."” (Matthew 15:3-6)

Sometimes, we can end up breaking God's law by attempting to rate one duty over another. “"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone."” (Matthew 23:23) Notice that even when part of the law is a "weightier matter," we cannot neglect the simple things either.

God's laws don't conflict with each other. The Lord gave orders to his disciples on “"teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you;"” (Matthew 28:20) not "some things," nor "the most important parts," but "all things." There is no pick-and-choose in what to do or not do. We cannot leave anything out. “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

This is not just a problem that the Jews were having back in those days. Here's an example. I write this because of a conversation from a few years back. An older brother had been telling me about how he'd worked hard at his job and finally gotten to where he could have time off on Sunday to attend the worship services. Hold on; didn't God state plainly that we should assemble together every time? “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Yes, I did bring Hebrews up at the time. His response was what really nailed this event into my head: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8) The believer has to provide for his family; if he does not, he has denied the faith.

I wasn't sure what to say to that, but it didn't sit right. For two and a half years, I've been thinking long and hard about the relationship of these two passages. I'm hoping that the answer already appears obvious to you. When you choose to provide for your family over assembling with God's family, what does it say about your priorities? Is there a conflict in these two commands, or did the implementation of one cause a conflict with the other?

How do you avoid this conflict? This one is simple, but tough. Take a job that lets you follow both commands. A good job can be hard to find. But consider: is it a good job if it wants you to disobey God?

God has told us that we have to observe all of His commandments, so we can be sure that there is always a way to do the right thing. “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) The right to do is not always the easiest thing to do, but that is the nature of temptation. But God is faithful, and He has promised a reward in the end.

"And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life."” (Matthew 19:29)

One more thought for the road: He mentions leaving both houses and lands. In those days, lands or farms were major sources of income. Even if you are leaving a nice job, don't worry; Christ offers better benefits.