Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.
This line is up there with John 3:16 in terms of lines that most people could quote from the Bible even if they’ve never set foot in a church. It helps that it’s featured in at least 3 gospels, although as a punchline to different parables.
It’s a tough line to read, because most of us would consider ourselves pretty firmly in the First category. I know I would – I live an incredible life surrounded by embarrassing riches. I try very hard – and mostly succeed – at not taking a moment of it for granted, but I know that I am firmly in the western, 1% world and that there are many, many, many people on earth that have nowhere near the abundance I have.
Should I be worried?
At first glance, all signs point to yes. There a million parables that point out how hard it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom. Camels are large.
Luckily, it’s not so cut-and-dried.
There’s no dollar amount that makes you rich and thus excludes you, like some sort of reverse cover charge. (And, PS, I find it comforting that the disciples, evidently not in the lowest tax bracket when it came time to render unto Caesar, were scared about this, too – and how eloquently Jesus walked it back. Deus ex machina.)
I have so much, and I’ve worked hard for some of it, but much of it is an accident of birth: being born when I was, where I was, into the family I was. I can’t take credit for that – but I’m also not to blame. Just as it would be ingrateful to claim that I’m entirely self-made, it would be ingrateful to not enjoy the gifts I was given.
I think. Or maybe I’m just justifying them.
Anyway, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last. I’ve read this line a million times in my life, but a week or so ago, I read it differently. It sounds dire, and it’s a wake-up call, to be sure, but it’s not a straight-up condemnation.
First, last, smack-dab in the middle – it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re in line. The last one through the narrow gate is still inside.
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