First Things First

Remember, in school, when you begin to start with more complex mathematical equations, most of us are taught the order of operations. And a simple way to remember that order is the acronym PEMDAS; each letter in PEMDAS stands for a mathematical function- Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. When I first learned this helpful device, I was instructed that it was PEDMAS, which switches equations’ division and multiplication aspects. And depending on which function you do first will make a difference when solving for an answer.

Because of the disparity, I had to determine if what I had been told my whole life was wrong. I discovered that neither is 100% correct. Instead of using an acronym, I needed to use the correct terminology, Order of Operations. That is because the order for multiplying/dividing and adding/subtracting is reversible. Within mathematics, the problem may call you to divide before multiplying or subtracting before adding. It all depends on the expressions, and those function in order from left to right. And so, in reality,

the Order of Operations is four steps:

·     Parentheses

·     Exponents

·     Multiply/Divide

·     Add/Subtract


Since we read expressions from left to right, students MUST do the operation that appears first. That is enough of a math lesson for us. What are the spiritual implications? As humans trying to do the right thing, life presents some pretty complex situations. I had often wished I had an order of operations available when I tried to solve some of my tricky situations. But then I realized that Jesus did give me a solution to my problems, using the acronym SFHKAR. Now doesn’t roll off the tongue like PEMDAS, but it is far more effective. 

Matthew 6:31-34 – “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear for clothing?’ 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

We get bogged down with the cares and worries of the world. These needs are common to humanity; we worry about what we eat, drink, and wear. And yes, these are important, and I am not advocating ignoring what we need to survive. God knows us, and He knows that we need these things. However, this passage builds upon the understanding that in life, there is an “order of operations.” There are things we should desire to pursue over other things. When we do this, our problems will become easier to solve and allow us to see the solution more quickly; and if there is no solution, we can find rest, realizing that God’s Kingdom has prevailed. 

Yet, many times, when things are spiraling out of control, or we feel our problems are too complicated, we toss our order of operations out of the window. When we balance a “full plate,” pursuing God’s Kingdom and Righteousness often suffers. When we can’t imagine fitting anything else into our lives, God and His Reign are the parts that we neglect and ignore. 

What would happen if we sat down and analyzed everything from a Kingdom perspective while facing a complicated equation? What would change about our lives if the things we sought were not temporary but those with eternal consequences? Pursuing God’s Kingdom and righteousness means I would pray more than I fretted. It means I have a clearer perspective of the picture and the future. I know that when I remove God’s purposes from the equation, it becomes only about me and what I can do… and in my experience, that is very little. I think things would go much better if we all… Seek First His Kingdom and Righteousness and if we all put His things first. 


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