(“The Last Will be First and the First Will be Last” – Part 2)
In Matthew 20:17-34, shortly after His parable about the landowner of the vineyard, Jesus informs His 12 that they will now be going into Jerusalem, where He will be betrayed to the Chief Priests and the Teachers of the Law. They will then condemn Him to death and turn Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified. But on the 3rd day, He will be raised to life.
I find it interesting that after Jesus announced this to His 12, James’ and John’s mom approached Jesus about raising them up to royal status with Him (compare with 1 Kings 2:13-25).
Obviously when the other 10 heard of this, they were pissed, for they recognized the two as trying to get promoted above them, even wanting to be considered superior! But Jesus informs the 12 that the ranking and Leadership in the Church is not like such in the world. If you wish to lead, then you must serve.
I guess that the question to ask here is: “Has the Church picked up on this yet? Or was it as such at first, and it just moved away from it in time?” I ask this because the problem that I see is that many in the Church (members, committees, staff, etc.) think that the Church should be run like a successful business or corporation. Pastors are also lifted up as leaders in the Church due to education, status, and popularity, sometimes versus their hearts for service. Many Pastors even lift themselves above everybody else for the same reason.
“Hey, I’ve got my Master in Divinity, I’m ordained, I’m on this committee and that committee, I’ve gone here, and there…I’ve earned my right for leadership in the Church!” Not according to Jesus, for according to Jesus, you can only “earn” your right to leadership by serving. And Jesus is talking about humble service (as He’ll demonstrate later when He washes His disciples’ feet).
Now understand, we’re not talking about salvation…we’re talking about leadership. You can’t earn your salvation, no matter how humble your service. This is about becoming a leader within the Body of Christ.
One weekend, when we were living in Virginia, I flew to Chicago to visit and be a support for my family during my aunt’s funeral. As I read this chapter, I got to thinking about, well, first about other Pastors who don’t serve, but just insist on power and authority over people (as Jesus mentioned the Gentile rulers do), as well as how often times the people put on church committees are often ones put there because they have either run or owned successful businesses outside the Church, and so are believed they will do well running a church (usually not so). But then I got to thinking about myself. How am I serving?
See, even as a Pastor, I’ve been hurt by the Church many times. In my recovery times, I’ve gone from getting knocked down, depressed, abandonment by “friends”, questioning not my call but what I’m called to do, wrestling with hurtful words said by “leaders” within the Church, venting, fighting for my “title” or status of “Pastor”, and continuous feelings of having to prove myself to others (even though I know that the only one that it matters to is Jesus, and I don’t need to prove anything to Him). Then I read this chapter.
Yeah, I have my degree, education, experiences and training, but that doesn’t mean anything if I don’t use them to better serve others. Also, when friends and family reflect about me, it’s never “because he’s a Pastor”, but because of how I’ve served them, been there for them, treat them, love them, listen to them, and bring the presence of God with me or help them to better know the Lord (their words…really!). And so because of all this, they recognize me as “Pastor” or as their spiritual director of some sort. My education, training, and experience help me in my service, but neither are what claim my leadership among people – it’s how I serve them that they respect and recognize me as a leader.
So now, let’s connect it all to the landowner parable:
Everybody who was hired was willing to work (and everybody who’s saved must be willing to serve).
The 1st guys felt cheated and disrespected because, though they worked longer in the field, they didn’t get more of a reward than everybody else (like the Gentile leaders and authorities – and some leaders in the Church – who exercise or demand their authority above others). The Church is not to be led as the rulers and leaders rule and lead outside the Church. We’re to be holy as our Father in Heaven is Holy…separated from the ways of the world, and others are to recognize this difference, which represents God.
If you wish to lead, you must be willing to serve.
In the end, all who worked (served) were rewarded for their labor (service).
Isn’t it interesting how this part of the chapter both began and ended with 2 blind men? The first two asked to lead, and they became blind. The second two asked to see, and when they did, they followed Him who taught them to serve.
“The Last will be first and the first will be last”.