Piety has limited value. And when I say "piety" I mean beliefs expressed by a rigid code of behavior. Sometimes we wrap ourselves up in a thick blanket of our piety. We let it envelops us. We let it keep us nice and cozy making us feel worthy, secure, safe.
Jesus once told a story about a mother (Salome) who said to him “Jesus, put my son’s in positions of power.” Salome earnestly wanted to secure her boys future. She wanted her boys to go to the front of the line, so to speak; to sit at the right hand of power. In one swift retort, Jesus deconstructs this mothers expectations of religion. He replies with a curt "he who wants to be first, will be last; and the last, will be first.”
I have long been told that Jesus wants us to practice virtuous behavior so that it doesn't look like I am trying to secure a favorable future. You know what I mean, your behavior should look respectable so that others will not look down on you. I think this is genius. It commands respect and AND we get to keep the “scales balanced in our favor.” But Jesus doesn't give us this saying so that we will live is such a way as to be considered “last” and therefore get in “first.”
I propose, rather, that Jesus is actually deconstructing human standards of piety. Jesus is rather arguing that that compassion, not comparison is near to the heart of God. He is, in effect, saying "let someone go before you."
But notice one other thing that Jesus doesn't say. He doesn't say, "look fellas, actually it is actually only the last ones who get in” — whatever “in” means.
No, what Jesus is saying is, “God is calibrating his “worthy” scales — and everyone single person, regardless of their position in line, is welcome.
So, if the first are last and last, first then there really isn't a line at all.
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