But What’s the “Main” Thing?

About this time in alternating years, I tend to feel bright and optimistic as Labor Day approaches. It’s a time for all of us to pause and celebrate the hard-working men and women whose determination and indefatigable pursuit of excellence built the greatest nation on earth. Labor Day also officially introduces the Fall season here in America, and I love the invigorating anticipation of colored leaves, pumpkin spiced lattes, and the invigorating chill of frosty mornings. 

A Different Feeling ~
During the alternate years like this one, though, I feel different. Those are the years when the holiday also sounds the opening bell for another Congressional election campaign season. As we ordinary folks fire up the grills and honor the working men and women who keep this country running, the Washington, DC political establishment and its cohorts in the media fire up a continuous onslaught of disturbing,main thng.1 often disgusting, political shenanigans. A barrage of ads in every media platform known to man will assail us with false accusations, misrepresented data, empty promises, and fear mongering doomsday scenarios. Finding a sense of bright optimism between now and early November is going to be tough. At this point, I feel like I’ve been thrown into the crowd of idiots that line the streets every year waiting for the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. 

We may not be subjected to huge bulls running wild here, but like those folks, we know that the political gates will soon be swung open, and a bunch of powerful creatures that also seem to lack normal human sensibilities will be turned loose and freed from all restraints. Like the bulls, they’ll surge forward, prepared to attack whoever or whatever gets in their path with no regard for either the pain they cause or the mortal danger they might represent. 

An Intriguing Concept ~
But, whatever unfolds this year, I plan to try to dodge as much of the stampede as possible and focus on things less likely to make my head explode. For instance, I’ve been intrigued lately by an interesting concept that Stephen Covey included in his 1989 best seller,
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. While he may not have been the first to suggest the idea, he managed to condense it into a single, concise, easy-to-remember phrase that contained no heavily nuanced, multi-syllable words. He simply said this, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Wow, that sounds easy, doesn’t it? Maybe all of us should scrap our strategic plans for achieving success and happiness and just go do that. But, wait just a minute . . . On second thought, it appears that there’s something missing. 

While the admonition is admirable, Covey neglected to tell us what the “main thing” is, and that can be main thng.2problematic. In the first place, our judgment is impaired. We’re flawed and morally challenged human beings with an incredibly consistent track record of picking “main things” that lead nowhere and often destroy our lives and wreck our eternal future. In the second place, as we go through life, our designated main things tend to have a variable shelf life. 

Transient Objectives ~
The things that occupy that category tend to be fickle, unreliable. and subject to unintentional, unanticipated, and sometimes sudden, changes. For instance, when I was 16, resurrecting a 1954 Mercury that had been laid to rest in a local junkyard held the number one spot for me. I hoped it might mean a chance of getting that captivating blonde girl in my English class to go to a drive-in movie with me–if, that is, I could ever generate the courage to actually speak to her. Eventually my treasured chariot did come to life, but that movie date I dreamed about never happened. Life went on, and both of those all-consuming main things yielded the space to other things. Does this pattern sound familiar? 

It looks like Covey’s iconic phrase may need an editorial adjustment or two. Maybe he should have prefaced it with something like this: “The main thing is to figure out what ‘the main thing’ really main thing.3is before wasting your life chasing things that it isn’t.” One thing is undeniable. The main things we often see as so vital don’t tend to stick around. They’re fickle, unreliable, unpredictable, and rarely deliver all that they seem to promise. Or maybe it isn’t the goals themselves that are fickle and unreliable; maybe it’s us. 

Truth is, if we’re to have any possibility of experiencing the kind of fulfillment that we really want, then somebody who’s not so fickle and unreliable and who knows and understands enduring value needs to choose the main thing for us. It seems reasonable, then, to ask the One who actually created human life and who will ultimately evaluate what we’ve done with the one we were given what He thinks.

An Impressive List of Possibilities ~
Thankfully, the living God has already addressed the issue. He delivered over 200 commands and ordinances to Moses, including 10 that were so special that He wrote them on stone tablets. All of them are important to Him and all are designed for our benefit. None of the admonitions or restrictions that God ordained were given because He wants to punish us. They were given to establish our peace, ensure our protection, promote our prosperity, and enable relationships to experience the joy and happiness God intended. We are blessed and God is honored by every effort we make to live out any of them. 

But wait a minute. We can’t do it all, right? And we’re trying to nail down just a single, dependable “main thing” that we can focus on. Attempting to include all of those rules and directives and make main thing.8them into a huge, conglomerated main thing in our life would be a chaotic exercise in futility. Isn’t there one that could encompass everything for every one of us and that could occupy that vital spot throughout our lives? And if there is, which one is it? 

Thankfully, Jesus was asked that very question by an expert in Mosaic law who hoped to trip Him up with it. Here’s how the exchange began:

But when the Pharisees heard that He [Jesus] had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? (Matthew 22:34–36 NKJV)

The Key Unveiled ~
Jesus’ response amounted to articulating a passage of Scripture
(Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18) that Jews, including Jesus Himself, repeated twice each day. It’s called the “Shema Prayer” (from the Hebrew word, Sh’ma, for “hear”, that begins the passage). It condenses everything God wants for us into a single command expressed in the context of two relationships. Together, they hold the key to the best that life can ever offer us. 

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:37–40 NKJV)

There you have it. We no longer have to wrestle with the “main thing” question. The ultimate authority in the universe has identified it for us. So, as our political running of the bulls begins again this fall, whatever we decide to do to respond to the crises and craziness plaguing our nation, one thing is clear. Our actions are to be constrained by one main objective, You shall love. There is potential for transformational power in Stephen Covey’s admonition when that command is the central focus of our heart and mind and the lens through which we view the primary relationships of our life. 

So, Happy Labor Day, Everyone, and remember, The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.  Oh, while you’re at it, try not to get trampled in the stampede between now and November . . .


“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below.  Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .

    • “One thing is undeniable. The main things we often see as so vital don’t tend to stick around. They’re fickle, unreliable, unpredictable, and rarely deliver all that they seem to promise. Or maybe it isn’t the fickle, unreliable goals themselves; maybe it’s us.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)  
    • “No admonitions or restrictions that God ordained were given because He wants to punish us, but rather to establish our peace, ensure our protection, promote prosperity, and enable relationships to experience the joy & happiness God intended.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)  
    • “There you have it. We no longer have to wrestle with the “main thing” question. The ultimate authority in the universe has identified it for us. @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)  
    • “Our actions are to be constrained by one main objective: You shall love. There’s potential for transformational power when that command is the central focus of our mind & the lens thru which we view the primary relationships of our life.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)     

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© 2022 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S.  All rights reserved.

About Ron Gallagher, Ed.S

Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher, Humorist, Satirist, Blogger ... "Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World" For Ron's full bio, go to GallaghersPen.com/about/
This entry was posted in Faith, Family, and Culture, Holidays, Humor Turned to Insight, Insights, Labor Day, Right Side Up and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to But What’s the “Main” Thing?

  1. Alleluia and amen, Ron! If we keep God’s commands, holding the one to love Him and our neighbors in highest esteem, it’s hard to miss and mess up the most meaningful thing in our life. And yes, I’ll do my best not to get trampled in the upcoming onslaught, although this latest “speech” by Biden has only served to stoke my fears for our nation. Honestly, from everything he said to the ominous look of the venue, all I could think of were demonic forces at work in our country. We need to pray for our nation’s salvation harder than ever!
    Blessings!

    Like

    • Oh my, Martha– It looks like your comment somehow went in the wrong folder or something, and I missed getting to it. Please forgive me for the glitch. I appreciate hearing from you and it’s always such a blessing to know you’re out there keeping the light shining. I agree with you 100% about “the great unifier’s” speech. The things we’re seeing and hearing couldn’t be more indicative that there are demonic forces at work in the most powerful places in our land. The response we need is not more clever politics, it’s a spiritual revival. I appreciate those who are carrying the torch in the political arena for the values this country was built on, but the Church needs a serious wake-up call and some heavy duty cleansing. If we don’t return to the mission we were dispatched to carry out, the result is depressingly obvious. Too many of the world’s attitudes and practices have infiltrated our ranks and we need to remind one another that being a follower of Jesus is not relegated to a couple of hours on Sunday. These are critical days and the future of our country is at stake–and seasoned spiritual warriors like you are a priceless asset. Thank you for not caving in and retreating into cowardly silence like so many others have done. And again, forgive me for being slow expressing my gratitude this week.

      Like

  2. Ron, you certainly nailed things!

    Like

    • I’m so sorry for being ridiculously slow getting back to you, Joy :(. We had some unusual divergences in our usual routines around the Gallagher compound this week and I missed getting to some important things, like acknowledging how much your response means to me. Encouragement is a priceless thing, and I’m grateful for the boost you sent along, may God bless you for taking the time to remind us that you’re out there. These are critical days, and every voice is vital, so please keep on keeping on.

      Like

      • I didn’t expect a reply, but its “slowness” caused it to arrive at the perfect time. We’re both down with Covid, and I’ll be missing a long-planned talk at an out-of-town library tomorrow evening. Yes, I was to be the guest!

        Like

      • So sorry to hear about COVID invading your life, Joy, and that you missed the opportunity to speak. We’ll trust the Lord along with you that healing grace and another opportunity will be coming your way soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. JD Wininger says:

    Another post I’ve fallen in love with sir. Your wit and humor are only surpassed by your wisdom and fervor to further God’s kingdom each day. Not Christian or “Pastor-bashing” here, we Christians shoot ourselves in the foot enough, but I’ve heard many admonish congregations to “Keep the Main thing, the Main thing.” However, as you so eloquently point out, many are mistaken about what that “main thing” should be. Yes, I agree that the greatest commandment, and its successor (love God, love your neighbor in the same way) should be the “Main Thing”. A key point I hope others took from your magnificent post is that our ability to keep that focus is dependent upon our relationship with God. The more we are “in sync” with Him and His will for our lives, the easier we find it to keep that focus on that which is most important in our lives. A challenge for me, and perhaps for many, is as you point out, shifting priorities. For me, my attempt to “keep the main thing the main thing” is ensuring that my relationship with God remain in the number one spot in my life’s Priority List. For many years, I would try to keep God near the top, but I would find myself reorganizing my priorities list based on what was most demanding at that moment. I’d love to tell you that my Priorities List today is; 1) God, 2) Family, 3) Country, 4) Career, 5) Ranch, on and on, but if I’m honest things get jumbled, based on the priorities of that moment. When a water line breaks (as one did this week), that takes over the number two spot fairly quickly. When I’m up against a writing deadline, I’m ashamed to admit that my career (business consulting writing) takes precedence over my family. Notice one thing here my friend. I’m learning to prioritize 2 through what seems like infinity as needed, but number 1 (the main thing) remains number 1. My logic? If I “keep the main thing the main thing” and base all my other actions from that centered baseline for life, then I should reflect Him more in my life and the decisions I make. I wish I could tell you that it always works, but I can’t. I also wish I could find a way to keep 1 and 2 as constants, but the others often dictate how well I can care for number 2. Thank you for the great thoughts, encouragement, and inspiration this morning my friend. I find myself once again humbled to be learning in your grace-filled classroom sir.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Let me begin with this–another response I’ve fallen in love with. Your characteristic willingness to be down-to-earth and transparent always challenge and inspire me. I’ve been around so many pastors and church leaders who shy away from admitting that they don’t always get it right. For me, this piece was a message from God about how I handle those unexpected attacks on my priority list, like the ones you so mentioned. It’s not quite as challenging to focus on viewing everything through the lens of loving God and wanting the best for my neighbor when I’m not overwhelmed with some urgent issue that demands my attention and consumes whatever energies I have. Even little things can sometimes knock me out of my peace and harmony zone, like when some knuckle-headed hotshot nearly takes my bumper off in traffic. I have difficulty wishing for good things to happen to him or her. I’m more inclined to wish I could be a cop for a few minutes, or that I had some kind of electronic beam that would shut his engine off. Unfortunately, that kind of response never seems to improve my life any. It just leaves me with something else to confess later. The good news is that the more I make an effort to prioritize loving the living God who took the consequences of every wretched thing I ever did to the cross, the better life seems to be, even in the tough spots. Thanks again, Brother–you always make our lives richer just by being who God created you to be. Pass our love around the Cross-Dubya and know that our prayers are undergirding all the challenges you and Mrs. Diane face and all the ministries you undertake.

      Liked by 1 person

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