On December 29, 1972, three able-bodied and experienced pilots flew a Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star into the Florida Everglades. The lone survivor from the cockpit of Eastern flight 401 would later tell investigators that, "There was never any alarm or concern in the cockpit . . . I don't think anybody knew the crash was coming, even the captain."
So what happened? How could a tragedy like this occur? As the crew turned onto their final approach to Miami International Airport, they began their pre-landing checklist. Everything checked out, except for one thing. The nose landing gear indicator had failed to illuminate. This meant one of three things had happened: (a) The nose landing gear had not locked into place, (b) There was some problem with the circuitry of the panel, or (c) The light bulb on the panel had burnt out.
They tried to replace the light bulb, but had trouble removing the old one out. The plane was put on autopilot and everyone in the cabin turned their attention to changing the light bulb. Somehow the autopilot became disengaged, and while the whole crew struggled to change a seventy-five cent light bulb the plane descended and crashed into the Florida Everglades. Disaster occurred because they forgot to concentrate on the most important thing: flying the plane.
Airplane crashes aren’t the only kind of disasters that can result from misplaced priorities. We, as individuals, can become so absorbed in building our homes, careers, and our portfolios that we neglect our highest priority. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” If we pursue the things of this life to the point of neglecting our walk with God, we make the same mistake with our lives that the crew of Flight 401 made.
Jesus told of a man who had been very successful in life and thought he had it made. We would call this man a success. God called him a fool: "But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." (Luke 12:20-21) This “Rich Fool” had given thought to everything but the most important thing-- his relationship with God.
Even churches can become distracted from giving attention to the highest priority. We can become involved in good causes, in erecting buildings, in fellowshipping, and in drawing crowds, but neglect our main calling. We must remember our commission to, “... go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
As individuals and churches, we must remember to keep flying the plane. In our pursuit of the good things of life, don’t neglect the first priority.