In the movie Talladega Nights, (bear with me here) Ricky Bobby has a motto: if you’re not first, you’re last. In the context of that silly movie, that’s what gets him to the top and makes him a great racer. That mindset also destroys his relationship with his best friend and his marriage. Nevertheless, it seems like a lot of people operate under that same motto, even some Christians.

And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles domineer over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way for you; rather, the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant.

Luke 22:25-26

This doesn’t just apply to us in our gracious approach to leadership, however. Christians have to be mindful to exercise humility in all aspects of our daily walk. We cannot allow ourselves to be caught up in making sure our own needs and desires are fulfilled. This only leads to selfishness and trouble. Someone who wants to become a servant like Jesus commanded must also be willing to give up the false security of material wealth as well.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:32-36

Jesus explicitly ties together loving our enemies and lending without hope of return; if we can show that we value someone more than money, we demonstrate to even our enemies that we have a different set of values than those who trust in themselves rather than God. “He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil people.”

It’s true that we can never be number one. That spot belongs to Jesus. But we can still be the best we can be, and sometimes that means someone else wins, and that’s a credit to you and me.

Jesus said if you want to be first, you’ve got to be last.

Ethan Kirl

Originally Published May 25, 2021