People Before Things
Who would have thought I'd find a lesson in my re-reading of Sense and Sensibility that actually dove-tails with themes the Lord has been keeping me focused on lately? Specifically, the importance of being a Mary in a Martha world. (If you scroll down, you'll see a few posts on this theme.)
In chapter six of S&S, just after we have been introduced to Lady Middleton, whose shortcoming is that despite being elegant and well-mannered, she is devoid of intelligent conversation, Austen says,
"Lady Middleton piqued herself upon the elegance of her table and of all her domestic arrangements, and from this kind of vanity was her greatest enjoyment in any of their parties."
Austen's point here is that Lady Middleton is wholly occupied, entertained, and concerned with the appearance and quality of her table--rather than the people surrounding it.
With her usual brilliance, JA recognizes that this is vanity.
We women love to rationalize our occupation with appearances, the beauty of our house, our cooking, as simply trying to do our best. We put pride in what we provide for our family, and in the way we take pains to decorate. This is natural and even necessary--to a degree.
Go beyond that degree, however, and it borders on nothing less than vanity.
There are times when I have been so worried about the appearance of my home that I have made the rest of the family miserable! Talk about getting priorities out of order--I get them completely backwards at times.
There's a magnet I've seen that sort of sums it up. It says: People Before Things.
It's also a good way to check my priorities from time to time. I ask myself, "Am I spending my time and effort more on people or on things? (the house, the shopping, myself, my goals, even my books)? Jesus' focus was always on people, not things. And he certainly has the right to expect us to put Him first--for he is not just "people", not just a person, but very God!
How about you? What makes it most difficult for you to put Him first, or to put "people before things" in your life?