A New Order
So the last will be first, and the first will be last. | Matthew 20:16 (NIV)
I grew up knowing Matthew 20:16 by heart. It’s because of this ingrained memory verse that I always chose to stand at the back of the line during lunch or recess or any other scenario where order was involved. I would mosey to the end of the line while snidely thinking to myself, “Suckers! Now I get to be first in heaven.”
But that’s not what Jesus meant.
He wasn’t giving us a way to manipulate our own eternal success. Jesus was introducing us to the Kingdom of God. All this talk about being first and last was supposed to clue us into something vital: everything is different in God’s economy. The last are first, the poor are rich, and the outcasts are accepted. There’s no bartering for a seat at the table because the invitation is open to all.
John the Baptist called for repentance in Matthew 3 by declaring, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” At hand. That means the Kingdom is here and now, today in this moment. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are carrying the Kingdom with you wherever you go. Your allegiance to Jesus makes you a citizen of the upside-down Kingdom where reward isn’t based on merit and victory isn’t awarded to the strong. I was wrong to assume the effects of the Kingdom would only take place in heaven, because Jesus was clear: the kingdom is here.
Here’s the deal: we are citizens of God’s Kingdom now. What does it look like for you to live with the priorities of a Kingdom citizen (Matthew 20)?