[NOTE: The following comments have been written in honor of Pastor Martin Tivane, servant of God and men, whose birthday is January 1st. While he celebrates this day in heaven with Jesus, he was the perfect example of one choosing to uplift ‘the last’ so they could be ‘first’ in every area of his life.]
What does it mean when Jesus tells us that the last will be first and the first will be last?
As the New Year of 2014 opens a fresh beginning—let’s give thought to who we want to be. Will we put ourselves first? Or will we put ourselves last? These are hard questions. I know that one year–long ago, Jesus made this same decision. He purposely left His Kingdom… His very throne in heaven…to enter our world not as the King of kings… but as a servant born in a stable… He was the One who became last.
He was hated and rejected; his life was filled with humiliation, sorrow, and pain… His own people called him: a nobody… or worse, a blasphemer!
I tell you, His Kingdom strategy is so much different than ours is today! If we follow His strategy… His life example… we would voluntarily lay down our wills. Bending down in humility is not a ‘natural act’ for our human frame… or our human temperament.
Living in a first-world nation, our ‘firstness’ includes such things as freedom, wealth, power and education. Being born privileged is not a fault… I honestly don’t think He meant for us to run away from our first-world to some foreign third-world. But, I do think God yearns for us to align ourselves… conform ourselves with Jesus… who put the needs of the last—first. Honoring the ‘last’ is basically giving them higher priority than ourselves… just as Jesus gave our need for salvation ahead of His rightful place in glory.
Jesus helped those who are last by elevating their status. He welcomed those who were on the bottom rung of society’s ladder… those who were ‘last’… the poor, the sick, the prostitutes and the tax collectors… to receive the same benefits as those who believed they did ‘everything right’… the righteous, the Pharisees, the Saducees.
In Matthew 20, we read a parable of workers some who had worked all day and some workers who had only worked a half-a-day. At the end of the day, the master paid all the workers—the same wage. This left the ones who had worked all day a bit ticked.
At the end of this parable is where we find that famous phrase written:
“Everyone who is now last will be first and everyone who is first will be last”
What we fail to realize when we are concerned with fairness is something remarkable… What if some of the workers in this story had been privileged with connections to get their job? It could be that some were able to work because their family had power and influence—or some may have had educational privilege. Could it be that the unemployed were left out because they belonged to a lower class? The bottom line is this… we are not told by this passage. Jesus didn’t go into such details, but it appears…
He is not concerned with perceived fairness…
His main concern appears to be with demonstrating the meaning of grace and generosity.
If Jesus was the ‘master’ in this story… paying His daily hires equally… what is He asking us to do or learn?
He is actually trying to realign our hearts with His… teaching us that grace is not earned… teaching us not to be envious of grace given to others… teaching us to associate with and enter into the world of the last… to be servant of all… teaching us to show grace to all… especially the needy.
This may mean showing regard to those who struggle as higher than ourselves. It may mean giving an ear to those who others will pass-by and ignore. It could mean offering assistance, hope, encouragement to someone in need… at the cost of our own time, resources, and entertainment. What it really means is a heart willing to sacrifice our own priorities for the priorities of the least. Trust me… we are faced with these opportunities daily—if we start looking.
If our eyes focus on the least, we guard our hearts from self-pity, envy, and jealousy. We can’t get into our personal ‘pity party’ when we are looking at the sorry state of someone worse off than we are. If our eyes search for the ‘last’ in every situation, we enter a true humility only owned by Christ, Himself. And do you know what? He begins to mold that—into us.
But, we must take the first step.
Look around. Who is last in your world? The harried cleaning lady who is trying to support her young family? Your cousin who keeps losing his job? The immigrant who has to walk to work? The children who are growing up without a mom? The homeless man pushing all he owns in a broken cart? The drug addict who can’t find a mentor? The abused wife who feels hopeless without a career? The lonely veteran who gave everything for all but is now without a visitor? The elderly husband who is failing himself but still caring for his beloved debilitated wife? The professional who did not pass a certification test? The clinically depressed who want to end their pain… end their life?
When we choose to enter the world of the last—life will suddenly gain clarity and meaning.
Life is never all about us but rather its living for one another.
“And if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in the darkness and your gloom will become like the midday” Isaiah 58:10
Grace and Peace to you all in 2014!!!