SPIRITUAL MATTERS: The virtue of being last

The idea of being last seems almost un-American. Who wants to be last? No one! Not in sports competition. Not in election results. Not on the world scene.
But Jesus Christ told his disciples, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9: 35).
Jesus said that in response to his disciples who were arguing with each other about who was the greatest (Mark 9:34).
On another occasion, James and John requested to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in glory (Mark 10:35-37). How utterly absurd that they would be so self-absorbed at the very time Jesus was headed to Jerusalem to be crucified for the sins of the world.
Their issue (and ours) was their selfish pride. Now to be fair to the disciples, they had grown up in a society that was very impressed by the self-righteousness of the Pharisees.
Jesus, on the other hand, knew all hearts and condemned the Pharisees for their pride. They wanted to call attention to themselves when they prayed, fasted and gave alms. So it was natural for the disciples to follow the practices of the Pharisees.
Humility is rarely viewed as a virtue in any generation. Most of us do not lack self esteem because our lives are dominated by pride.
In fact, the natural instinct outside of Christ and the salvation that He offers is to exalt ourselves. The Psalmist writes, “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him” (Psalm 10:4).
Jesus Christ is the greatest example of humility. His humility was climaxed when “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
The apostle Paul exhorts us to have the same mindset as Christ, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
James 4:6 reminds us, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ”God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
The argument among the disciples about who would be the greatest was so contrary to the way a follower of Jesus Christ is supposed to live.
Yet pride is one of our greatest struggles. Pastors struggle with pride. Pride will destroy unity on a sports team. Pride will destroy unity in the church.
Ultimately without humility no one will see Jesus. Jesus made that very clear in the Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:3).
This beatitude is often misinterpreted. Jesus said “poor in spirit.” He was not talking about material possessions.
Jesus meant that no one can be saved unless they recognize their total depravity and complete dependence on God for salvation.
In order to become a Christian, one must admit their sin, repent of that sin and put their total confidence and trust in Christ alone (Acts 20:21). Without this important step of humility, no one can have eternal life.
But the wonderful gift of salvation is offered to those who will humble themselves before God. We will still struggle with pride, but we must practice the virtue of being last. The Christian who is willing to be last is willing to be servant of all. This is what Jesus demonstrated for us.
The Rev. Glen Currie is assistant pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church of Clarkston.