Normally we don’t enjoy being last. Especially us Americans. We have been taught from birth that there is no other place than first, and that second place is just the first loser. However, I have found something recently that I do like being last to. There is a stretch of road construction on a highway I drive several times a week. This is a major project which involves fairly long traffic delays. I am very happy to come up to the traffic stop last, just as traffic is being allowed to start proceeding!
Being motivated to succeed is not necessarily a bad thing, we just take it to extremes many times in our culture. We also, as believers in Jesus, have to be very careful not to measure our relationship with Him the same way the world would. We can very easily fall into the thinking that we need to be “first” in His eyes by doing a lot for Him. If we volunteer to teach Sunday school, sing at church, give to a lot of causes, follow all the “rules,” then we will be worthy to be in a relationship with Him.
Back in Jesus’ day there were people with the same mindset. They believed that if they followed all of the law, or “rules,” they would be first in the kingdom of heaven. In the book of Matthew in the Bible, Jesus told them it didn’t work that way. He explained that God’s economy is the exact opposite of our human one. In fact, He flat out said that the first will be last, and the last will be first. This was revolutionary to the people of His day and to us too. We cannot work our way into heaven and we cannot buy our way in, salvation is a free gift of grace.
This is also pretty great news for some of us who never do feel as if we are first, who maybe even struggle to feel worthy of a savior. Jesus meets us right where we are at and holds out forgiveness, hope and love.
So while I may still enjoy being first into the Starbucks drive-through, and last in the line of traffic, I am very happy that I do not need to worry whether I am first or last in God’s kingdom. Because as long as I have received salvation through Jesus, I am right where I belong.
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Matthew 19:30