The Prize for Last Place

JP Wilkinson

So the last will be first, and the first last.

Matthew 20:16

Illogical or Paradoxical?

I used to think God was sometimes illogical. Doesn’t it seem illogical to say that the last will be first? But a professor once rebuked me, encouraging me to think of God as more paradoxical than illogical. I didn’t understand it at the time, but he had a great point.

Logic doesn’t give you truth—it only tests for falsehood. Or to be more specific, it really tests for inconsistency. And the logical outcome of a series of thoughts is only as good as the assumptions you start with. But a paradox does something else. These are ideas that don’t seem to go together, but when they are examined and reflected upon, they demonstrate themselves to be true. So, if these things are true, then is there a prize for last place in God’s kingdom?


What Could Be

Jesus is teaching us that the kingdom of God operates differently than this broken world we’ve built for ourselves. He teaches us that giving ourselves to others and thinking more of them than we do ourselves is what success is in God’s kingdom.

Jesus challenges us to look through His eyes for a minute to see the corruption of what we’ve brought about, and then to see what could be if we let the Holy Spirit guide us.

Excitingly, corporate America is beginning to wake up to these concepts (or disturbingly, because maybe they beat us there!). Consider the numerous books currently on the market, from Greenleaf’s classic Servant Leadership, to Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last, to someone like Manoj Bhargava modeling true charity.

Jesus modeled this attitude for us by becoming truly human like us, by suffering humility and torture, and by dying for the redemption of any who will believe. Christ, through the gift of eternal life, shows us that indeed there is a prize for last place: Himself.


Now What?

Take an inventory of all the ways you lead in your life: in your work, your family, your congregation, etc. In what ways are you modeling Matthew 20:16, and in what ways are you falling short? Confess, repent and pray for supernatural power to lead more like Jesus. Ask for help from those who already lead well.


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