“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” – Mark 10:31
“The last in line doesn’t ever make the team / Doesn’t get a second chance / Doesn’t find a field of dreams / The last in line doesn’t get a special prize / Doesn’t ever hear his name / You don’t look him in the eyes / Nobody wants to be the last in line.” (Song lyrics by songwriter and singer Billy Crockett, “The Last in Line”)
No one likes to be last in line, or last at anything for that matter. We learn that at a young age, in simple games, on the playground, in the classroom, from a game of Old Maid or checkers. We want to win the game, be the fastest in the race, the top student in the class. It’s a great thing the competitive spirit, the desire to achieve, to be the best, to come in first, to win the prize. Such desires inspire us to perform at our best and to work at becoming even better. It is this spirit that drives achievement, success, innovative ideas, inventions, better and more efficient ways of doing things, all of which can make the world a better place. So, being first in line is something we should all aim for, as long as we don’t forget those who are last in line.
My good friend Tommy was that kind of person, a high achiever, brilliant businessman and corporate leader, a fierce competitor whose wealth grew, as you can imagine, to be fairly substantial. Tommy and I became friends serving on a mission team for several years making annual excursions to Honduras where we worked among the poorest of the poor. Tommy was the kind of guy who would always volunteer for the most backbreaking jobs like laying bricks or pouring concrete from a heavy wheelbarrow. But the thing I remember most about Tommy was how at the end of the day before we left the worksite, he would take off his shoes, clean them up, then give them away to someone who needed them more than he did, after which he would quietly walk away – barefoot. Tommy was a winner, but he never forgot those who were last in line.
When Tommy passed away a few years ago, I had this image of him stepping into God’s Kingdom exactly the way he left Honduras – barefoot. But instead of being first in line he stepped back a few spaces to help someone else get ahead, someone who just happened to be wearing the shoes he had given away. “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” And that’s just as it should be.