There should be no greater joy in the Church than to see the successful living of brothers and sisters. For some reason I have been given this topic to write on this morning so perhaps this addresses a need or a lack in your own walk as well as mine. A friend of mine wrote in Facebook a comment concerning this quote from Jesus:
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matthew 20:16)
This is the conclusion to Jesus’ parable about the farmer who hired people at various times of the day and paid them all the same amount regardless of how long they had worked because it was the wage he had promised. It is also the conclusion of what Jesus said should be within the attitude of leadership:
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all." (Mark 9:35)
Jesus also applied this principle to our life here, that those who appeared to have much here yet maintained a poor spiritual walk with Jesus would end up last compared to those who had little here but a rich walk with Jesus:
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." (Mark 10:29-31)
My friend’s comment was simply that when the Lord makes princes into paupers and paupers into kings, those who truly belong to the Body of Christ have no problem with it. After all, this is one of the great common denominators in the Kingdom and we should all rejoice in the will of the Father, putting off of ourselves any petty desires. The Apostle Paul described the attitude of the Body in this manner:
But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)
It does not matter if we think the person deserves honour or not; it is enough that the Father has done this thing, and when one is honoured we are all honoured. So we rejoice, we kill the fattened calf, we throw a big party and we are glad for the success of our brother and sister.
The Apostle John shows this same attitude but from a different perspective. He writes to his friend Gaius:
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. (3 John 1:2-4)
John expresses his great pleasure in receiving news that his friend is remaining faithful and doing well in his service. No judgement, no criticism just an expression of joy. Surely there must be something that John could pick on or point out, some minor infraction. Yet it is enough for John to praise his friend for what he was doing well. It is terrible when we allow our human nature to take priority over the character of the Spirit. We can get so petty with one another, noticing all the faults and failing to rejoice in the positive things. We can allow petty jealousies to derail the party just as the older brother tried to do in the parable of the prodigal son.
Like my friend said, we know we belong when we can accept the principle of the Kingdom that we rejoice in the success and promotion of our brothers and sisters. We do not deny them what the Father has given just because we want it. We do not take away from the party by childish jealousies. We do not tear them down or find faults. We consider this success our success. We consider their promotion our promotion because in truth it is the success and promotion of Jesus in them. Of course it requires a greater revelation of the Father’s love to understand this. It takes a willingness to die to ourselves and to lift up others as more important than ourselves.
What is essential to understand is that this is normal life in the Body of Christ. Anything outside of this means that we have a problem in our relationship with Jesus. If we struggle to love our brother and sister, to rejoice with them, to lift them up, to celebrate, it means we do not understand the love of Jesus. If we do not understand the love of Jesus then how could we have accepted his forgiveness? We probably haven’t. That is how basic this principle is in the Kingdom. Those who belong can accept, “The last shall be first and the first shall be last”.