Jun

12

I ran my first full marathon in South Africa and it was grueling. The course was all hills and it rained the whole time. I was pretty much last – I only saw one guy behind me and he was walking because of an injury. To be honest, I was just happy to finish upright and not to be the last one.

No one wants to be last.

In Matthew 20 Jesus tells the story of some laborers hired to work in a landowner’s field. The men hired in the morning worked hard all day in the hot sun. As the day wore on, the landowner continued to bring in more workers. Then at the end of the day, he called them in last-in-first-out order, and paid them each a denarius for their work. The men who had worked all day were angry. They didn’t think it fair to get the same wage as those who worked less, and even worse, they were paid last.

No one wants to be last.

Jesus uses this parable to describe the Kingdom of God where the last shall be first and the first shall be last. (Matthew 20:16) But how is this possible? When is being last actually winning rather than losing? When we exalt God rather than ourselves. When we surrender our will to His will.
When we love, serve and sacrifice for others.

The morning laborers failed to do this. Instead, they compared themselves to others growing angry, jealous and discontent. They doubted the landowner’s wisdom, motivation, character and sense of justice. Then they powered up to get justice for themselves. As the first ones hired they wanted special treatment – payment befitting of being first.

They wanted what they thought they deserved.

A mentor of mine says that forgiveness is the oxygen of the Kingdom. It sustains life. It makes Kingdom living possible. If that’s true, then perhaps comparison is the carbon dioxide of the Kingdom. It sucks the life right out. It steals our joy, faith, trust and love, and turns our focus inward. It defeats and implodes, and out of the dust rises pride and insecurity. And it hinders us from receiving and demonstrating God’s love. That’s why comparison is such an effective scheme of the enemy.

The landowner ascribed value equally and unconditionally, just as our Heavenly Father does.
We can’t earn value through works, or attain it by comparing and striving to get ahead. Instead, we must put God and others first. That may mean last place for us, but there are both great lessons and great rewards to be found there.

I’ve never heard of a race where athletes train and run in hopes of finishing last. But then the Kingdom of God isn’t a typical race, and Jesus isn’t a typical coach.

Here’s to hoping for a photo finish with all God’s people tied for last.

What does training and aiming for last place look like for you?

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