Acts 27: 16-19
As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sand-bars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.
Matthew 22: 35-40
One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’
Jesus replied: ‘“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’
Here in Acts 27 we find Paul aboard a large boat heading to Rome. We read later that it carried 276 people as well as cargo, grain and other supplies. Prior to the storm the most valuable thing on board was the cargo. It was the commodity that would make most money, it would be sold when they arrived at their destination. But look at what happens:
“…they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands.” (v. 19)
Then later in verse 38:
“…they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.”
Once the storm hits, once things get desperate they begin to differentiate that which is truly valuable from that which can be thrown away. Their priorities change. Storms have a way of doing that. They force us to re-evaluate what’s most important in our lives and what perhaps isn’t as important as we once thought it was. When you’re sinking you become ruthless about what you hold onto and what you throw away.
It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important. To get focused on the immediate and urgent, and to miss the big picture. Often there are many things we think we need, that we assume we can’t live without, but ultimately they mean absolutely nothing. Having had the privilege of sitting with many people in the last days and hours of their lives, I rarely hear them talk about their jobs or careers, how much money they earned, how big their house was or how important they were. They generally talk about two things: family and God. That’s it. When all else is stripped away that’s what really matters.
Possibly that’s why Jesus said that the greatest commandment was that we love God and love other people. He’s saying that when establishing priorities and principles for life, we want to focus on what matters most.
What is most important in your life right now? It is stuff or people? Is it your career or your family? Is it pleasure and fun or loving and seeking God? Is it temporary things or things that last?
If other things are taking up energy, time and commitment that we should be giving to God or to those closest to us maybe we need to take the example of the men on this ship. Throw it overboard. Lighten the load you’re carrying. Refocus on what really matters.