Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 23:11-12’

Putting Others First

February 20th, 2015

“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.1 Corinthians 10:24 NIV.

The simple secret to joy is Jesus first, others second, and then yourself.

My thoughts and comments today are about “putting others first.”

Life in God’s Kingdom means accepting a vastly different value system. The Bible says, “Let no one seek His own [good], but each one the other’s well-being.” 1 Corinthians 10:24. If you are honest with yourself, you know that is not natural to any of us; it’s hard to do and easy to forget. The natural tendency is toward selfishness, smartly camouflaged a bit but still selfish.

When I was a child, joy was explained to me this way, “The secret to joy is Jesus first, others second, and then yourself — J-O-Y!” That’s how life is supposed to work, and the only way that it works best all the time.

EDL pix JOYTrying any other order makes life confusing, more work, and less satisfying than it ought to be. I confess that I should be better at this than I am. My Mom was a consistent example of someone who put Jesus and others first, and my sweet wife, Gayle, is the same.

But that’s not the natural order for any of us. Adapting to the surrounding culture is easier because it comes more naturally than the Kingdom’s culture. That philosophy of life reads this way, “Me first, everyone else second, and some not at all.” Me first, first in line, first for advantage, first with privilege, first in consideration and leftovers for everyone else. You live in a “me first” world, and it will be hard to resist the temptation to think that is the only way you will survive.

We are often like the disciples, squabbling over who will have prominence and will be the greatest. Too much of life is wasted maneuvering for position, manipulating for influence, finagling for advantage, and subtly moving toward the front of the line. But Jesus told them the simplest and truest secret to joy, “To be the greatest, be a servant . . those who think themselves great shall be disappointed, but those that humble themselves shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12 TLB.

Have you noticed that the most gracious and selfless people are the most genuinely happy? Look around you; the most benevolent of people are the most content and fulfilled. Those who are always keeping score and making sure they get first place or the bigger share are too busy with themselves of for thoughts of others. That’s a very poor, lonely way to live.

And that’s where you face one of the great decisions of everyday life. Will I do what God says is right and best long term, or will I do what feels right to me now? In your heart you know that is best, but it doesn’t set right to your self-centered nature. Living in the Kingdom of God means embracing this heart changing truth, “It is not about you; it’s all about Him.” And He makes it about others too. “Be kindly affectionate to one another, in honor giving preference to one another.” Romans 12:10.

Jesus taught, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like the first, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:37-39.You may wish it were otherwise. You may see that with most others, it is otherwise. But you must choose if obedience to God is the path you select.

Today, my prayer for you is to choose the way that is right, not the way that feels right.

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May 17th, 2013

“Diotrephes, who loves to be first.” 3 John 9 NIV.

Longing to be important opposes your learning to be significant.

My thoughts and comments today are about “significance.”

When our first grandchild was a preschooler, she tried to unravel the mystery, “Who is the boss of me?” She asked my wife, Gayle, “Nana, if Mommy is my boss, is Daddy her boss?” From there she worked her way to the assumption of Nana being her Dad’s boss, and my being Nana’s boss. After momentary reflection and a bit puzzled, she finally asked, “Who’s Poppa’s boss?” I think her real concern was about how and when she would get to be “boss.” From early years, we have a driven need to be first. People often confuse their inherent desire to excel with a need to exceed.

John warned of the attitude of “Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence . . who likes to put himself first.” 3 John 9 NKJV/ESV. Longing to be important opposes your learning to be significant. Let others give you promotion and prominence as recognition for contribution. Jesus addressed the spiritual and moral etiquette of this, teaching His disciples that when one comes to a dinner, take a “lower seat” until and unless invited to a place of prominence by another. See Proverbs 25:6-7 NIV/Matthew 23:5-6 NKJV.

The disciples were rightly concerned with greatness, but they misunderstood the path and process. “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:11-12 NIV. To our world, Jesus’ Kingdom seems upside down but actually is right-side-up. Jesus asked the clarifying question, “Who is greater, he that sits, being served, or he that serves? But I am among you as one who serves. He that is first is he who serves!” Luke 22:24-27. Being first to serve requires patience and trust in God’s times and ways.

It is common to want to be first. People push others aside in order to be first. If being first is an obsession that compels you, your desire has become misdirected. Being first can become a compulsion that causes you to expect advantages that would not have been yours, mistreat and disregard others, excuse compromises to get ahead, and eventually become more concerned about appearance than accomplishment. Bettering yourself might increase your importance; bettering the lives of others multiplies and extends your significance.

Self-importance is momentary; significance can be lasting. My friend, Kenny, taught me a practical exercise to counteract self-importance. “Take a bucket of water. Stick your finger into the water and pull it out; then notice how long you leave a hole!” In the broader scheme of life, no one is as singularly important as we would hope to be. Significance comes from contribution not competition.

It’s simple; to be first, you put others before yourself. Be recognized for having a heart and hands employed in serving others. “Don’t push your way to the front . . put yourself aside and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourself long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourself the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself.” Philippians 2:3-5. MSG.

My prayer for you this day is that you will be first to serve and bless others.

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