Winners and Losers
I’m sitting in a waiting room with my daughter yesterday. We’re both reading quietly, but gradually an animated conversation across the room takes over and fills the the space. Only bits and fragments at first, but then a narrative begins to emerge. A party the night before, a limousine, and a driver who wouldn’t just shut up and stop talking.
“He kept trying to get into the conversation.”
“He would always try to respond like he was one of our friends. Can you believe it?”
“He was so annoying.”
“I know… the same thing happened to me a while ago.
“What is it with these drivers?! Don’t they know their place?”
“We still had a fun night so that was good, but, you know, he just about ruined it for us.”
“Eventually I had to flat out say, ‘Excuse me, but we’re not friends. This is a private conversation.'”
“Wow. Well, I’m glad that at least he didn’t ruin your night.”
“Yeah, me too. It was fine. But I wish it didn’t have to come to me saying that. I wish they would just get it.”
One of the Scripture texts from last Sunday’s worship came from Mark 9:30-37. Jesus’ disciples were arguing about who was the greatest among them. Jesus’ response: “”Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
Just like that. With surgical precision, all of the posturing and preening and jockeying is sliced through and exposed for the worthless trash that it is. All of our precious judgments revealed for their falsity, pretension, and meanness. Just like that.
Oh how we love to rank and evaluate and judge and categorize. How we love to divide ourselves. In one box, the beautiful and put together, the trim and the fit, the educated and articulate, the able-to-afford-a-limo-for-a-night-out-on-the-town… the winners. And, in the other box, the socially awkward, the immigrant, the not very wealthy, the perhaps-a-little-flabby and not-very-attractive, the butting-in-on-conversation and not-knowing-their place type… the losers. We love our categories and we guard them fiercely. They are not supposed to mix. That’s why we have boxes.
Very well, then, Jesus says, you lovers of rankings and categories and boxes, here is your place. “Last.” “Servant of all.” Try those on for size. Welcome a little child. Learn something from them. Perhaps some of their innocence will rub off on you. They haven’t adopted your hurtful and dehumanizing categories yet—perhaps they can somehow help you unlearn the pain and poison of judgment that you are so eager to dispense.
Welcome them. And in so doing, welcome me.
But be warned: I have no use for your categories, your boxes—those will have to go.
Or, if you insist on keeping them, at least remember your place.
Last of all. Servant of all.