Who hasn’t heard that before? Maybe you’ve even said it. In today’s world (and, in fact, throughout all of history), people want to be first. If you’re first, it (according to the world) says that you’re more important than other people–and that’s on a large scale. It even comes down to things like being first in line, or being the first one picked for a game. No one likes to be last.
The problem with wanting to be first? It can lead to disagreements and maybe even a bit of anger toward the person who got in line ahead of you! After all, only one person gets to be first. Thankfully, the Bible has an example of this situation; let’s take a look at Luke 9:46-48.
An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
This is a pretty funny story; twelve grown men arguing about which of them was the best. But seriously, can’t we all see that in our own life? Even if we’re mature enough not to argue outright about it (though some of us still do), we all like to be first or the “greatest”. We like our ideas to be picked. We like to be center stage. We like to receive compliments. And we feel let down if people overlook us.
Here’s the thing: Jesus said that the least would be the greatest. When you think about it, Jesus exhibited this in His own life. He is the greatest after all; He’s God! He had everything, but He came to earth and was born in a stable. He slept in a manger (feeding trough), of all things! He humbled himself. He served others. He even washed His disciples filthy feet (John 13). Basically, He was a King, but He acted like a servant. That’s the example we need to follow. Serve others, whenever you get the opportunity!
When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:7-11)
One of the messages I see in this parable is that we sometimes get the wrong idea. We think that Jesus must feel that being first is a bad thing, and that He wants us to feel the same way. Well, being first isn’t a bad thing, but that might be the way you need to feel about it. If you’re always looking for ways to be the “greatest” in the eyes of your friends, you could be missing out on opportunities that God is sending your way.
If you humble yourself and put others first in this life, guess what? You may have missed out on some praise and compliments down here, but there is far greater reward and honor in heaven.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. (Colossians 3:23-24)
For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. (Matthew 16:27)