Matthew 20:16 (NIV)
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Throughout the years we would go horseback riding on our family vacations. One of the interesting things that became very evident is that horses have very different personalities. Some are leaders and some are followers. Some are at the "head" of the herd and do everything in their power to stay there, while others are at the "tail". Some want a routine; others want to be free to structure their own time. Some have a high work ethic; others are lazy. Some shy at everything; others can't be phased.
Meet the thoroughbred that was rescued off the race track. He's at the top of the pecking order in his little "herd", a position he shares with the only mare. He is a gentle as a lamb with humans, but he doesn't hesitate to remind the other horses of who is the boss. He's a bit on the lazy side and mostly he's slow; but he does enjoy a good gallop whenever it is allowed. The interesting thing is that although he's at the top of the pecking order, when going out for a ride along the road, he refuses to be the lead horse! He shies, he refuses, he walks backwards, he tosses his head, and if he can be convinced to lead, he shies at garbage, mail boxes, funny-shaped branches on the ground, anything. It's an interesting trait for a horse who once was a successful racehorse!
Next meet a handsome pinto pony. The pony is somewhere in the middle of the pecking order, and he loves to work. He's fast, he's frisky, and he can jump amazingly high barriers, despite his lack of physical height. But he's not a leader, either.
One day after two horses were done working it was time to cool the horses down. One little problem: Neither horse would go first. They backed up. They reared. They put their heads down and refused to move. They walked sideways. They did everything except lead the way.
There are two other horses that warrant mentioning. One is a striking Palomino, and the other is a black thoroughbred. Their positions in the pecking order are last and second to last, but they don't seem to mind. They simply submit to the authority of those above them. Interestingly, when we take the horses out for a ride along the road, these are the only two with courage enough to lead!
They aren't given any thanks, however. Once back in the barn, the thoroughbred lays back his ears or stamps his foot, and the other two are instantly back in their positions at the bottom of the pecking order.
In all, it reminds me of humans. There are the ones who bully their way to the top. They climb the ladder of success by knocking down and treading upon those who stand in their way. They take no thought of the hurt they may cause, and once they reach the top, they do not stop reminding everyone of who is in charge. But are they true leaders? In a push-comes-to-shove situation, will they stand up for the rest? Will they be willing to sacrifice themselves for others? There are those who humbly submit to authority, who simply sit back and do their jobs and do nothing to stop those who would rise to positions of importance. But what happens when problems arise? What happens when someone is needed to step forward and assume responsibility? What happens when someone is needed to sacrifice self for the good of other? Isn't it generally the underdog who then rises to the occasion? But once the crisis is over, the "leader", the one who has cowered behind in the crisis, quickly retakes his place in the seat of honor.
We all know people in both categories. In fact, many of us ARE people in both categories! Let's remember Jesus' advice: "Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last." (Luke 13:30 NIV) It isn't where we stand in the human "pecking order" that matters. Rather, it is where we stand in God's eyes!
How much better the world would be if we would all be content to be "Palominos" and "black thoroughbreds". If we could all be people who don't even try to take the places of honor, and instead humbly stand back and let others claim the glory they crave. Let's all be ready, however, to humbly move forward to lend a helping hand when it is needed, and not get worried about whether we get the glory for it or not. Instead, let's just humbly go back to our positions of servitude, ever knowing that "the last will be first, and the first will be last." (Matt 20:16 NIV)
Dear Lord, we thank You for the lesson we can learn from the horses that You created. Help us to not worry about being in the peeking order of man but in the eyes of You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.