- Rick LoPresti
We live in a world of misplaced priorities. One of the greatest needs of society is a reordering of priorities. In the worlds of mathematics, computer programming, and organic chemistry there is something called priority function. According to Stanford.edu, priority function is defined as follows:
Defining the priority function is of high importance. This priority function is domain-specific
as well as institution-specific, representing trade-offs between quantity and quality, between
functionality and resource constraints, and between expectations and the reality of delivery.
The priority function orders the different metrics and their values. However, all priority
functions should have the product delivery as a high priority goal. See Appendix D for a
discussion on decision making.
The priority function serves two goals. One goal is to establish priority. Important tasks need
to be accomplished first over lower priority tasks. This is the traditional role of a priority
The second goal of the priority function is to manage conflicting and non-monotonic tasks.
The priority function needs to divide the tasks into consistent collections. The priority
function needs to guide the selection of the consistent collection and then followed by the
selection of the tasks within that consistent selection.
As more and more of the system is established, the priority function is weighted to choose
tasks that are consistent with the already established system. A non-monotonic task is
inconsistent with the established base requiring that some of the already accomplished
system to be thrown out. The non-monotonic task should not be taken, unless the addition of
the non- monotonic task is absolutely necessary to the success of the entire system. The
priority function guides this decision.
The priority function manages non-monotonic conflicts in the small while, as will be
established soon, change order control manages non-monotonic conflicts in the large.
What does all that mean in plain English to us? Here are 11 points we can gain and apply:
1. Priority function must be defined. We need priorities and their functions clearly spelled out
or there will be confusion and conflict about them.
2. The need for priority function applies to individuals and specific functions as well as
organizations such as families, churches, communities, and businesses.
3. There must be balance between quality and quantity. For Christians, this means we need
both quality of character such as the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23), and quantity of
productivity in reproducing other disciples (Mt 25:14-30).
4. There must be balance between functionality (practicality) and resource constraints
(limitations of resources – people, time, money, etc.).
5. There must be balance between expectations and reality of delivery (the ideal and the real).
6. Product delivery is the high goal.
7. There are two purposes to defining and enacting priority function – establish priority and
8. Priority function guides the selection of tasks.
9. Priority function chooses tasks consistent with the system.
10. Tasks which are inconsistent with the priority function are to be thrown out and only
absolutely necessary ones are to be kept.
11. Priority function guides conflicts.
There is also priority function in plants. When plants have a malfunction in priorities, they can send their valuable resources into doing things that are not important to the purpose of the plant, which is producing its fruit. Studies have also shown that plants demonstrate the principle of first in order taking precedent over first in priority. The following is taken from the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health; PLoS One. 2014; 9(1): e86906. Published online 2014 Jan 31:
Priority effects occur when species that arrive first in a habitat significantly affect the
establishment, growth, or reproduction of species arriving later and thus affect functioning
of communities. However, we know little about how the timing of arrival of functionally
different species may alter structure and function during assembly. Even less is known
about how plant density might interact with initial assembly. In a greenhouse experiment
legumes, grasses or forbs were sown a number of weeks before the other two plant
functional types were sown (PFT) in combination with a sowing density treatment.
Legumes, grasses or non-legume forbs were sown first at three different density levels
followed by sowing of the remaining PFTs after three or six-weeks. We found that the
order of arrival of different plant functional types had a much stronger influence on
aboveground productivity than sowing density or interval between the sowing events. The
sowing of legumes before the other PFTs produced the highest aboveground biomass. The
larger sowing interval led to higher asymmetric competition, with highest dominance of
the PFT sown first. It seems that legumes were better able to get a head-start and be
productive before the later groups arrived, but that their traits allowed for better
subsequent establishment of non-legume PFTs. Our study indicates that the manipulation
of the order of arrival can create priority effects which favour functional groups of plants
differently and thus induce different assembly routes and affect community composition
What does that mean?
1. The first thing to be planted sets the precedent for future plantings.
2. The order in which things are planted trumps other factors such as density and interval.
3. The order in which things are planted affects assembly routes, community compositioning,
In other words, the first things to get established will lay a foundation which will impact everything that comes after. It will affect the way things get done, the make-up of everything that comes after, and how they work. For example, it is vitally important that parents raise their first child right, because this establishes a precedent for the others which follow.
The Bible talks about these principles. In Isaiah 5:1-7 there is a parable about a vineyard. Jerusalem and Judah are symbolized as a vineyard which the Lord planted. He positioned it well to be fruitful. He placed a fence which was a hedge around it to protect it. He removed the stones from the ground so nothing would hinder its productivity. He planted it with the best plants. He built a tower in it so the keeper of the vineyard could get a good view to keep guard. He put a winepress in it so there was a place for the fruit to be processed and put into use. There was just one problem. When the time of harvest came, the vines produced wild grapes which were no good. The Lord asked what more He could have done to ensure a productive, fruitful vineyard. This was a rhetorical question. He had done everything He could. He had a clearly established priority function. The Lord’s response to the failure of the vineyard to produce despite this was that He would take away the hedge. This would cause the vineyard to be destroyed. It would be eaten up, broken and trodden down, laid waste, and not pruned or digged. It would become a place of briers and thorns, and He would send no rain on it.
One day Jesus walked by a fig tree. It was not the season for figs to be on the tree yet, but Jesus was hungry. When He saw that tree had no fruit, He cursed it and it withered (Mt 21:18-21). The Lord gave a parable that was very much like the one in Isaiah 5 (Mt 21:33-46). In this parable, the owner of the vineyard sent his servants at harvest time to bring him the fruit. The keepers of the vineyard refused to produce the fruit. Instead they beat and killed the various servants the owner sent. Finally, he sent his son, thinking they would at least respect him. Instead, they thought if they killed the heir, they would get to keep the vineyard for themselves. They were killed for their crimes and their refusal to produce the fruit to the owner, and the vineyard was given to others who would produce. Jesus was speaking to the Jews, but this applies to us as well. He also spoke of the destruction of Jerusalem at the end of His condemnation of the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders in Matthew 23. The Lord told another parable about a fig tree that had been there for three years without producing any figs (Lk 13:6-9). The owner of the land told the keeper to cut that tree down. He asked why it should be taking up space any more. The keeper pled for one more year before killing it.
Lastly, Jesus spoke powerfully about these things in John 15:1-16. He said He is the vine and we are the branches. In verse 2, He said, “Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.” There are nine principles in this passage:
1. The branch that bears no fruit is cut off the vine
2. Purging is removing from a branch the dead parts so that the living can receive the
nourishment and produce fruit
3. The branches that produce are the one that get purged so they can make more fruit
4. It is through His word that we can be productive
5. Abiding in Him is the way to fruitfulness
6. We cannot produce by ourselves
7. Prayer is another component of abiding in Him
8. Love is part of the fruit He is looking for
9. Joy is also part of the fruit, and it is a product of fruitfulness
The key to being fruitful and productive is having our priorities defined and implemented. When our relationship with God is our first priority, all other priorities and relationships can be blessed. When it is not, we are like a branch cut off from the tree. We cannot receive the nourishment and strength we need to do the other things we need to do. Jesus is the source. Family is a core priority. Paul said if a man does not lead his own family well, how can be any good to others (1Tim 3:4-5)? He also said if a man does not take care of his family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel (1Tim 5:8). Our relationships with our spouses and children are priority function. Then we can be in position to help others as well.