First Things First

By Christin Ditchfield Lazo

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 5:21-26

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment, and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council, and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”


There’s an old Chinese proverb that says, “Not the fastest horse can catch a word spoken in anger!”

In other words, once it’s out of your mouth, it’s impossible to get it back.

That’s why James 1:19 says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” It’s why the psalmist prayed, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Ps. 141:3) and “may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight” (Ps. 19:14).

But what about when we do speak too soon or out of turn, when we realize our words have been critical or hurtful or unkind? What can we do?

Jesus tells us to make it right immediately — if not sooner! Before we do any good deeds or make any sacrifices or gifts to God, before we worship, first things first: we go to those we know we have hurt or offended and ask them to forgive us — whenever and wherever possible.

We seek forgiveness for our sins against others and extend it to those who have sinned against us.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Col. 3:12-14)

Then our worship will be so much more than fine words.

Christin Ditchfield Lazo, M.A. (Bible and Theology), is a best-selling author, conference speaker, and syndicated radio host, passionate about calling believers to a deeper life of faith.

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