I am a little weary of the scrambl-ey feeling in my heart. I’m a little tired of the constant comparing of myself to other writers, to other teachers, to other women. I’m exhausted by the way I seems to be threatened by other people’s success and the way I envy their gifts.
Where did we learn the lie that the value of what we’re given is determined by comparing to what others get? Seriously. God gives us this delicious beautiful piece of cake, and we’re thrilled, excited, until we notice that the girl next to us got a cherry on her piece. And suddenly gratitude is cannibalized by envy; God has withheld from us. So we start sabotaging and stealing from one another to level the playing field.
We will only be satisfied when we have a better piece of cake. Or at least an equal slice. Our contentment is dependent on our confidence that no one around us has more than us. So we grasp and push and shove, desperate to get a little bit closer to the position we want, which is only valuable to us because it is ahead of someone else.
The disciples had the same problem. They argued over position and power. And so Jesus told them: here’s the game plan: Seek the smallest piece of cake, give away the cherry. Stop fighting for a position of prominence. Seek the lowest place. For the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
And He told them this story:
For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them,‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.”
The workers in this parable got what they had been promised. But instead of receiving the gift with gratitude they felt robbed, wronged. If they hadn’t they notice that others got the same amount for less work they would have been satisfied, but their fear that someone else was getting more rendered their own reward insufficient.
And I love the master’s response: Do you begrudge my generosity? When you see that other mom’s kids obeying her perfectly in the way you long for your kids too, do you begrudge God the right to give them that grace? When you watch another single friend find a great fit for marriage, do you begrudge God the right to be generous to her?
Look at your own hands for just a moment and see the good you have received. For starters – you have been given life and breath and an eternal inheritance filled with unimaginable glory and access to the Creator of all things who loves you flawlessly and constantly.
I have spent serious time this morning repenting with tears for this grasping competitiveness that leads me to cheer for others to succeed with a fake smile and a hollow heart or to envy those getting the blessings I crave. Repenting for the way I clutch and steal at attention and success like Golem grasping for that damn ring.
I had to say sorry to God today. Because there are corners of my heart that actually want Him to withhold gifts from others so that I can feel more secure.
I asked Him to make me someone who seeks the smallest piece of cake. I want to seek being last for two reasons.
First, because I know that what I have in Him is delicious and perfect. I am the wealthiest person alive in Christ. I have access to all I need in Him. I can give away everything else.
And the second reason I want to become obsessed with giving the cake away is because those who are last, shall be first. You know what that means? Those who have less in this life are just making more room in their hearts for more of Him in the next life. We can celebrate as God blesses others knowing that any pangs of hunger or lack we experience are just His way of carving out space for an eternity of satisfaction.