Flipping the Ruler
July 20, 2021
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first” (Matthew 19:30, NIV).
Work and family have always been the time consumers in my life, thank God. So, when I chose a sport for health, I chose running. It was the one thing I could do at 5 in the morning and still get to work by 6:30 or 7, not knowing when my day would end. When I reached 53, I started running long distances. When I turned 70, I decided to run my last marathon, just to prove I could. Last week, just west of Chicago, I did so with my daughter as she ran her first. It was 20 degrees warmer than a marathon should be, and I was miserable the whole way, and slow. After I stumbled across the finish line—my daughter fresh and me a dishrag—I discovered I had run the fastest time of any man 70 or older and would get a medal. Later I discovered I also ran the slowest time of any man 70 or over, being the only man over 69 who had run. I was both first and last.
It’s not easy to understand what Jesus means by His statement above in Matthew 19, though I am confident He was not speaking of my marathon.
Albert Einstein is credited for saying: “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything than can be counted counts.” I suspect Einstein is trying to tell us the same thing Jesus was telling us. The way the world measures things is not the way that really counts.
When Jesus spoke the words of Scripture above, He had just watched a young man turn away from Him and choose wealth instead. Just after this statement, Jesus shared the parable of the day laborers, where those who came late received the same payment as those who worked all day, disrupting the whole idea of merit-based reward in God’s kingdom. He finally brings His enigmatic words home during His last days in the temple when He pointed to the poor widow who “…has put more into the treasury than all the others” (Mark 12:43, NIV). So, He started with a rich man most blessed by the world who would measure last in His kingdom, and He finished with a widow least blessed by the world who would measure first.
We need a new measuring stick for our lives. Using the world’s measuring stick, we strive for personal reputation, money, power, self-fulfillment, autonomy. As healthcare professionals, we start higher up the stick than most, and we often achieve many of the things for which the world strives. But God has flipped our measuring stick. That which we thought was first is now last, and that which we ignored becomes first.
If I am using God’s measuring stick:
Instead of seeking self-fulfillment or money, my life should strive for self-expenditure.
Instead of seeking power, I should wash people’s feet.
Instead of seeking personal control of my life, I should bow my head in surrender.
Instead of seeking personal reputation, I should sing with Casting Crowns, “I don’t care if they remember me, only Jesus.”
As followers of Christ who walk the way of the cross, I need to flip the world’s measuring stick and measure my life as God does. After all, He does get the final measurement.
“Our lives are not measured by the lives of others, nor by our own ideals, not by what we think might reasonably be expected of us…our lives are measured by who we are created and called to be, and the measuring is done by the one who creates and calls.” — Richard John Neuhaus
Let me score well in the ways You measure my life, rather than strive for success in this world.