This morning I had a hilarious conversation. With 4 daughters at home this is a regular occurrence.
Before I relay the story, I have to tell you how things work in my house. A common question for children with multiple siblings is, “Who’s in charge?” When we run to the store, leaving our teenage daughter “in charge”, we make it clear to “the littles” (our 4 & 5 year-olds) that they are to listen to her. They are keenly aware of who is in charge when, and it determines a great deal of their behavior. Doesn’t it always?
The one thing “the littles” have realized is that they are virtually never in charge. So they often ask me, when I’m stepping out of the room, or walking out to get the mail, “Am I in charge until you get back?” I usually just say, “Yes. You are in charge of your cartoons until I get back.” No big deal.
Ok, with that said, here’s how it went down at the Wickman family breakfast table:
(The front page of the newspaper featured a large picture of the now-resigned Pope.)
Emily (4): ”Who is that Mommy?”
Kelcy: ”That’s the Pope.”
Emily: ”The Poke? What does the poke do?”
Kelcy: ”No no, the POPE Honey. He is in charge of the Catholic Church.”
Emily: ”Mommy, who is in charge of the United States?”
Kelcy: ”The President.”
Abby (5): ”Who is in charge of the President?”
Me: ”The American people are in charge of the President.” (Idealist, I know)
Abby: ”YES! Finally, I’m in charge of someone!”
For the next 5 minutes Abby alternated between cheers of triumph and exultant fist-pumps! I could see the wheels turning in her head. “If I’m in charge of the President…” I’m sure she had thoughts of Mr. Obama pouring her cereal into her bowl each morning. Or maybe even better, him helping her color a picture. The dreams of a 5 year-old girl…
It’s easy to laugh at a little girl’s perception of power. But I’m convinced that sometimes our concept of power is just as far removed from God’s reality.
Since the beginning of time, authority has been structured simply. One guy at the top has the most power, and the rest of the people “under” him have to do what he says. This has always been, and to some extent, always will be, the way things work.
But then, about 2,000 years ago, this Jesus came. He started saying lots of unpopular things.
One of the most ludicrous proclamations Jesus made was this:
So the last will be first, and the first will be last. (Matthew 20:16)
When I read the parable of the workers in the vineyard, my knee-jerk reaction is to scream, “That’s not fair!”
In this story, Jesus describe the injustice perceived by the workers who labored all day. When the boss handed out the pay, they received the same amount as the men who worked less.
- Can you imagine sweating in a field all day, only to be paid the same sum as a worker who only worked one hour?
Jesus sets up this obviously unjust story to evoke a childish reaction in us. However many years we’ve been walking this earth, we are prone to seeing our world through human eyes, rather than Christ’s eyes.
Our natural view of authority is:
- The first are first.
- I need to fight for my rights!
- If I’m in charge, I get to make the rules.
- I am where I am because I’ve gotten me there.
God’s view of authority is:
- Those who are clamoring to be first don’t even get it.
- I will lay my rights down.
- If you’re in charge, you’re responsible for serving all those “under” you.
Picture this: The entire world, from its earliest days, is constructed on the concept of the first being first.
Then Jesus, the Almighty Son of the Living God, steps out of His heavenly throne, descends to Earth, and says, “Nope. You were mistaken. The first will be last.”
I could imagine the stupid look no the disciples’ faces. “What?”
Peter must have had all he could to do resist the urge to shout, “Nuh-uh!”
And so do we.
The new reality Jesus ushered in is that those who grab and greedily pursue first place are already in last place. The people who really “get it” are those who, having power, take the opportunity to serve others.
This is why Jesus, who had all the authority of the Father (John 3:35), did all these things:
- Came to earth (John 1:14)
- Did what His mother told him (John 2:1-11)
- Did what His Father told everyone to do (John 2:16)
- Talked to a woman no one else would talk to (John 4:1-42)
- Prioritized people over the rules (John 5:1-18)
- Fed 5,000 hungry families (John 6:1-14)
- Saved the life of a condemned sinner (John 8:1-11)
- Gave sight to a man born blind (John 9:1-12)
- Gave up His perfect life to pay for the sins of the world (John 19:16-30)
- Came back (John 20:11-18)
- Restored relationship with his friend who deserted him (John 21:15-19)
And this is just the short list!
Bottom line: The Son of God spent His life using His authority to serve others.
The Savior of the world stepped off His throne in heaven, took on the form of a helpless infant, and lived a life of human hardship. At every opportunity He poured Himself into others, ultimately giving up His perfect, beautiful life. This is the picture of what God intends for authority.
Being “in charge” is not our chance to do it our way. It is our chance to come and die. We are afforded the chance to oversee, to have authority, in order to serve those in our care.
From start to finish, Jesus modeled what authority, properly applied, can yield. Will you follow in His footsteps?
- Will you serve your spouse?
- Will you serve your children?
- Will you serve your boss? What about your employees?
- Will you serve even your enemies?
Don’t let the fear of being last keep you from putting others first.
Your response to these questions will determine just how much of Christ’s life you get to live out in your own.