30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
This verse does wonders to correct our outlook on life. First, it discourages the bigger, better, faster, more mentality that we so often engage in. If only … and everything would be all right. And so we strive with all our might for whatever “…” is, on the assumption that if we achieve it, we would be happy, or finally attain our rightful position in life. Sometimes this is really about seeking to be first. If so, we can be pretty sure God is not pleased with it. The verse come right after a verse on self-sacrifice or self-denial.
29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
If self-sacrifice or self-denial involves putting ourselves last for the sake of Jesus, then we can do so happily, trusting that we lose nothing in the process. It will likely even lead to long-term gain.
Second, we sometimes feel “last” unintentionally. Despite our best efforts, things just have not gone our way. This may be a blessing in disguise. If we had our way, we might have succeeded and been able to put ourselves first, and then what? In the Great Future Reversal of Status (a term I just made up), we would lose. Honestly, we would rather be last now. There is little advantage to the attainment of visible status at the present time. So says Jesus.
Our goal must be to put Jesus first no matter what. There may be an “opportunity” to give something or someone up for him, though it may be disappointing in the present moment. Then, of course, we can often give priority to others. Let their needs be met, even if we do without, for Jesus’ sake. That’s often hard and doesn’t feel right or enjoyable most of the time. The point is we should not live for the present, but for eternity. Going last is the way to do it.