A Warning Against Complacency
Jesus’ priority is not that we would be comfortable.
When a conversation with Jesus about inheriting eternal life ended with a rich young ruler leaving the scene sad because he was unwilling to part with his wealth in order to follow Him, Jesus told His followers that “it is easier to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). In response, Peter, who liked to blurt things out on such occasions, pointed out the sacrifices that he and the other disciples had made to follow Jesus (v 28).
Presumably, Peter was trying to elicit a reassuring word that he and the other disciples were “safe” from Jesus’ warning since they had left behind their possessions. And indeed Jesus replied by offering the encouragement that whoever sacrifices much for His sake and for the gospel will surely receive plenty in return. In other words, God will care for them both in this life and in the age to come. But Jesus wasn’t concerned with simply making His disciples feel good about themselves. So He followed these words with a sting in the tail: “Many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
We can imagine Peter, on hearing those words, comparing himself to the rich young ruler and feeling reassured. But that does not seem to be the point Jesus was making. He had already dealt with riches. Rather, it seems that Jesus was warning His disciples, Be careful that complacency doesn’t get to you. There are those who assume they are “first”—many who are told, by the world or by the church, that they are “first”—who will one day be shocked by Jesus’ assessment of them. It will be those who gave all they had for Him, often in ways unnoticed by others, for whom Jesus reserves the highest praise.
Perhaps we, like Peter, feel protected from Jesus’ challenges about wealth and being “first,” either because we don’t have riches in the first place or because we have sacrificed so much for Jesus already. We can always find someone wealthier than us or who has given up less than us, and base our sense of security on that comparison. But Jesus isn’t concerned with making us feel comfortable. Instead, He calls us from our complacency and into devotedly following Him. Relative poverty is no more a virtue than relative wealth. He has promised to care for us, and He has called us to find our security in His finished work for us, not in what we are doing for Him. Do not give in to complacency born of comparison with others. Instead, hear Jesus’ call to Peter when, on a later occasion, Peter asked his Lord whether John’s life would play out differently from his: “You follow me!” (John 21:22).
God Is My Strength and Portion Forever
A Psalm of Asaph.
1Truly God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
my steps had nearly slipped.
3For I was envious of the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4For they have no pangs until death;
their bodies are fat and sleek.
5They are not in trouble as others are;
they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
6Therefore pride is their necklace;
violence covers them as a garment.
7Their eyes swell out through fatness;
their hearts overflow with follies.
8They scoff and speak with malice;
loftily they threaten oppression.
9They set their mouths against the heavens,
and their tongue struts through the earth.
10Therefore his people turn back to them,
and find no fault in them.1
11And they say, “How can God know?
Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
13All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
14For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
15If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.
18Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
19How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
20Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
22I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.
23Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
24You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
25Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength2 of my heart and my portion forever.
27For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all your works.
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