Words of Worth

Last Place Equals First Place

February 18, 2011

When I was in high school, I somehow managed to earn the highest average in social studies over four years. Imagine my surprise when one of my teachers told me that I was going to win an award at the Academy graduation! I hadn’t even been paying any attention to my social studies average, wasn’t aiming at winning any awards, wasn’t even all that fond of social studies and there I was about to be recognized in front of my peers, family, and friends. Or so I thought. It turned out that my good friend, Connie, tied my average, except that she took one less social studies course than I did, so that made me the true first place person for maintaining the average over more coursework. Or so I thought. It turned out that Connie was already going to be on stage at graduation for some other award she had won, and the stage apparently wasn’t big enough for both of us, so it just made sense for her to accept the award, the trophy, and the accolades on behalf of both of us. But truly, “who was the greater?”

Interesting that in 1968 when both Katherine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand tied for winning an Oscar, they both were allowed to be on stage. I guess that Academy didn’t have space conservation issues.

Well, I learned something about Math through that experience. Yes, that’s right! Social studies taught me something about mathematical equations and here it is:

Sheryl + seeking first place = no place

Since I was forced out of my high school’s graduation equation, and since no one knew about my achievement, I simply faded into oblivion and into an unnoticed state of being. One of the best lessons I ever learned! It didn’t really matter, when all was said and done, if I ever received recognition for my social studies average. Social studies will go on, graduations will occur, awards will be granted, the debate of “who shall be the greater?” will continue to rage, and all without any regard for my grade point average. Far more important than any average I earned in social studies, is how I live socially in this world God has created. Far more important than being in first place is also the recognition that any prowess I may have had in academic pursuits, was God given in the first place!

It is only natural to want people to pay attention to us. Even David lamented what he perceived as God’s lack of attention to him in Psalm 22 – “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” And the disciples often debated “who shall be the greater?” (Matthew 20:16; Mark 9:34).

Talk of superiority and greatness couldn’t be more contrary to Christ’s two great laws and example: humility and love. Seeking after first place and preferment will only displace and abase that desire. Self-denial and service to others should be the only trophy of our status in Christ. (SV)

Self denial + service to others = the last shall be first

Looking for more words? Read Mark 9:33-50.

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