Summary: We live in a society obsessed with being number one, while following Jesus who calls us to humble, faithful service. To meet the challenge of Jesus’ call, we must start at the foot of the cross.
Luke 14:1, 7-14 “The Blessings of Last Place”
This week a 41 year-old father was indicted on drug charges. He was pumping steroids into his 13 year-old son, who was competing for a place on the Olympic staking team. The father wanted his son to be number 1.
Controversy has recently developed over the TV reality show, “Kid Nation.” The parental wisdom of having your child drop out of school for six weeks and be taken to a state with inadequate child labor laws for the sake of having a moment in front of the cameras and a chance at some significant money, has been challenged.
A few weeks ago Barry Bonds broke the homerun record, but few people really care. The historic ball was sold for less than a premium price because most people believe that Barry uses performance enhancing drugs even though he denies it (and blames such rumors on the media).
We have a problem as a nation because we will do everything we can in order to be first. We have a problem as Christians, because in God’s order of things the last shall be first and the humble shall be exalted.
It is easy to criticize sports and entertainment, but the truth is all of us have believed the lie that being number 1 is very important.
• We poor vast amounts of money into our sports activities. Most of it does not go to items that might help us enjoy the games more, but we purchase items to improve our game and get us closer to being number 1.
• Many of us spent at least $1.00 on a lottery ticket on the chance that we might be the lucky one to win $314 million.
• Though our mothers told us, “It isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” we are much more likely to believe Vince Lombardi, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”
Our identity, personal worth and self-esteem appear to be tied up with our struggle to be number 1. When we win we feel good about ourselves. When we lose we don’t. The people Jesus observed grabbing places of honor did so not because they were the most comfortable seats, but because they would receive the honor and respect of others by sitting there.
Jesus never calls us to be first. At the same time, Jesus doesn’t call us to be losers, either. Jesus does call us to humble, faithful service. With society screaming for us to be number 1 and Jesus whispering in our ears to be humble, faithful servants, we find ourselves struggling to obey Jesus’ call.
False humility—telling others that we don’t have many talents or abilities is not the way to humble, faithful service. Authentic humility cannot be based on a lie.
Humble, faithful service is based on the cross of Jesus Christ, and the strong self-esteem that it provides us.
• Through the cross, we know that we are loved.
• Through the cross, we know that we are forgiven.
• Through the cross we know that God has a relationship with us and will never be separated from us.
Jesus took away our need to be number 1 through the cross. We no longer need to be great in order to please God. We no longer need to be number 1 in order to be saved.
THE GOOD NEWS
The scene at the end of the gospel story reminds us that the cross of Jesus Christ is good news for all of us.
Most of us will never been number 1. Without the cross of Jesus Christ, we would be doomed to live out our lives as failures—accounting for nothing.
Because of the cross of Jesus Christ, all of us will be given places of honor, all of us will receive a letter, and all of us will receive a medal. No matter what our abilities, limitations or achievements, because we are loved and forgiven by God, we are winners.
Knowing who we are, we can strive to be excellent, and forget about being perfect.
Knowing that we are loved and forgiven we can concentrate of humble, faithful service that will touch lives and transform the world in which we live.