"But many who are first will be last, and the last first." (Mark 10:31 ESV)
I get a lot of compliments. Enough that I know people's eyes are on me and that they look to me as a leader and an example.
At the same time, I catch a lot of flak. I make unpopular decisions that don't square well with traditions or structures, telling myself that it doesn't matter what anybody but God thinks.
Then I get flung upside down as the snare closes around my ankle, and I am left dangling from a tree branch, change falling out of my pockets, and glasses slipping off my face.
You see, God told me once I can be like Absalom, David's son who usurped the throne by weaseling his way into people's hearts through flattery. While I've never been guilty of usurping a throne, I have been guilty of using even "unpopular" decisions to earn praise from a small number of people I respect. The praise of men is, at least at this stage for me, a real and present threat to my walk with the Lord.
The thing is, Jesus says on a few occasions that the way we see people, rank people, and evaluate people—especially ourselves—is not at all how things work in His Kingdom. He says in three different contexts that the first shall be last and the last first. He says it in when explaining to the disciples the rewards for leaving everything to follow Him, so I need to let go of my missionary entitlement. He says it when talking about striving to enter through the narrow gate, so I need to let go of my self-righteousness. And He says it when He talks about the 11th hour workers getting paid the same as the ones who bore the heat of the day, so I need to let go of comparing myself to other people, especially ones who I quickly judge as not doing God's work properly.
Jesus made himself the lowest of the low and surely the last of all, so let's pick up our crosses and, in the words of a wonderful (metal) song by the Christian band My Epic, go lower still.
"'Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?' So the last will be first, and the first last." (Matthew 20:15-16, ESV)
What triggers temptation to think being a missionary somehow makes you a rockstar in the kingdom of God?
How can we exemplify the heart of the vineyard owner who paid the one hour workers as generously as he paid the 12 hour workers?
What specific ways can we humble ourselves before people who, if we're honest, we'd struggle to sit down next to at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb?