But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Verse 31 (NIV)
My kids seem to have all kinds of trophies from sports events. The only trophy I ever won was when I played in the Ontario Junior Football League. It was called the coaches award for leadership on my own team. The senior high school team I coached in London, ON won the city championship but there were no trophies attached to that victory. I think kids just get trophies easier these days. My kids disagree!
In any case winning, all by itself, can be a thrill. It’s a pretty big thing for most people – and many of us are so competitive that we feel we just have to win. That’s why today’s verse is so counter-cultural. The first will be last, and the last first? That doesn’t make sense. No one competes for the goal of being last. No one remembers the ones who come in last. But maybe that’s the point.
The economy of the gospel isn’t like everything else. Good looks and super talent don’t earn anything. In fact, very little that we value in this world – from wealth and prestige to power and position – means anything when it comes to following Jesus. At times, our stuff and our accomplishments can even get in the way of following Jesus.
I believe it kind of works this way: when we realize that the things we often rely on don’t actually gain us anything, we find ourselves in a place where we are ready to rely on Jesus. We realize that everything good we have and all we have accomplished is a gift from God. And we are ready to share it with others, rather than holding on to it for ourselves. With love and generosity and making room for people, putting others ahead of ourselves, we begin to follow and act like Jesus.
It is sort of sad that for many of us it takes so long to get to this point in our lives. A humorous saying that captures this reality is this: Too soon OLD; too late SMART. Let’s learn a bit earlier and get smart much quicker. Love others like this is your last opportunity and stop worrying about our own wants and needs.
Lord, help us to realize we rely on you for everything. May we follow your example and live for you. Amen