The principle of selective neglect

alarm-161067_640Nehemiah 10:39: For the people of Israel and the sons of Levi shall bring the contribution of grain, wine, and oil to the chambers, where the vessels of the sanctuary are, as well as the priests who minister, and the gatekeepers and the singers. We will not neglect the house of our God.”

We need to practice the principle of selective neglect; neglecting things that don’t add to us, neglecting associations that don’t add to us, but constitute a drain on us.

Paul said that we should be children in malice while in understanding we should be men (matured) (1Corinthians 14:20). That is the principle of selective neglect in operation. Paul was saying we should focus on gaining the right understanding, so that we are strong in it, but when it comes to malice, we should weak, not having the stomach for it, not being able to hold on to it; you must deliberately neglect being malicious while vigorously pursuing understanding.

The principle of selective neglect is about PRIORITY and the effective expenditure of ENERGY and commitment of TIME. It is not everything you should have time for, not every event you should attend, not every company you should keep, but the man or woman focused on human opinion is tied up in all manner of commitments, profitable or unprofitable, dissipating energy without result.


You define your priority by the result you want to see. You cannot do every course in the university nor know everything there is to know (on this side of eternity). You have to zero in on a few things and follow them to the logical conclusion (preferably one thing).

You need to have expertise in at least one thing, by choosing a path earlier in life and sticking to it. You don’t want to grow up and be an aimless old man. Make up your mind on time. Stick to something. By deciding what your priority is, you have chosen to selectively neglect other things.

You cannot be everywhere; you should listen to the Holy Spirit for what your priority should be. Paul told Timothy to first let intercession be made for all men (1Timothy 2:1-4). In another lace the apostles said they’ll selectively neglect the matter concerning serving table but they will give attention to prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:1-4).

When you cannot define your priority, then you will not amount to much and you give room for all manner of people to define priority for you, you will not be your own man.  Paul said that his priority was to preach the gospel in places where the name of Jesus has not been heard so that he would not be building on another man’s foundation (Romans 15:19-23). He believes his calling is more expressed in such contexts and in that way he better fulfils the will of God, and derives a higher sense of satisfaction.

He wrote to Timothy to make full proof of his ministry (2Timothy 4:5) and sent a message to Archippus: make sure you fulfil the assignment that God gave you (Colossians 4:17).


You do not have unlimited energy and you don’t want to spread yourself too thin that you could not achieve much. You don’t want to waste your energy doing the wrong things and at the end of it, there is no desired return on investment. Joab had two people running for an errand, expending energy but the final point only one was effective in his assignment, the one who was sent not the one who sent himself (2Samuel 18:14-33).

If you do what God ask you to do then you will be expending your energy effective, for the highest possible result. Energy used in the pursuit of God is used rightly. Money is also a reflection of energy; you need to be circumspect in how you deplore it, with all sense of responsibility.


You have a limited time for a day: 24 hours, and the least you can do is to be selective in what you allow to occupy your time. There are both temporary and eternal aims for which we can use our time.

Time used in God’s service is like seed sown; time used in prioritising the things of God and working for the benefit of others in the context of the kingdom of God is good. Jesus used his time to reach others for the course of God. Peter said that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power and went about doing good and healing those who are oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). If your time is not being used for the right things then it will be used to do the wrong things. There can be no neutrality about it. When David did not occupy his time with fighting against the enemy of Israel on the battlefield, he became occupied with sinful practices of adultery and murder (2Samuel 11).

When God put man in the Garden of Eden he did not give them 24hours a day of idleness. Jesus even said: as my father is at work even till now so I also work (John 5:17). So God made the Garden of Eden not just that man should enjoy his life but also have things to do. He had an assignment from God, which should occupy his time with that, while neglecting other things, though legitimate. Paul said that it is not everything that is permissible that is profitable (1Corinthians 6:12, 10:23).


In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were supposed to have commitment to the word of God. Adam was supposed to be committed to Eve because the word of God said that Eve was the help meet for him, that he can fellowship with on equal footing and not be alone (Genesis 2:15-25). You should be thereby be committed (pay attention) to your spouse and neglect others. Man was meant to be committed to the tending of the Garden of Eden because God said so. Their use of time was based on what God said.

Therefore, the word of God should define for us what our commitment should be. None of us should live for ourselves, we have been bought with a price (the blood of Jesus) and we should live unto God (1Corinthians 6:20, 7:23, Acts 20:28). We are meant to be messengers of God sent to this earth to perform his counsel. You don’t have to join all groups, go everywhere, and get to know everybody. Our first commitment is to know God.

Paul outlined his commitment saying this one thing I do, forgetting the past and laying hold of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:). This was a man empowered to change the world and he was committed to it, though the apostleship gift that he has (Roman 1:5).

God wants us to be commitment to using our gift. Our gift is descriptive of our uniqueness. Peter said those who speak should speak as the oracle of God, while those who serve with the energy God gives (1Peter 4:10-11). There is grace when we work in the area of the gift that we have from God (Romans 12:5-8). Paul said that he gives more commitment to the work of God than other apostles because of the operation of the grace of God in his life, which was not in vain (1Corinthians 15:9-11).

There are always opportunities to be distracted from the great possibilities that we have in the service of God to lesser pursuits; as far as Paul was concerned, Demas chose a lesser commitment when he decided to separate himself from the work of ministry as part of the ministry team of Paul (2Timothy 4:10). He had a change of commitment from God to the world and missed out on the higher calling in Christ Jesus. He chose temporary reward over eternal, natural gain over spiritual gain, earthly relevance over heavenly.


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