Be the First

By Pastor Teck Uy

We are competitive beings. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we compete with each other and try to outdo one another. This is part of our sinful nature. The moment we are born, or even before that, we compete with each other and struggle to get the best of what life can offer. This was fully manifested when Tamar gave birth to twin boys. “As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so, the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, ‘This one came out first.’ But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, ‘So this is how you have broken out!’ And he was named Perez. Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out and he was given the name Zerah” (Gen. 38:28-30).

Similarly, the twin boys of Rebekah were born trying to outdo each other. When Rebekah gave birth, “the first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so, they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so, he was named Jacob” (Genesis 25:25-26). This struggle to be the first continues to this day. Even the Lord Jesus Christ was confronted with this issue when his disciples were jockeying for prominence. When they were arguing on who was the greatest, Jesus rebuked them saying, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). But what qualities does the Lord expect from us to become the greatest among the many?

Faithful. We need to prove ourselves faithful to the Lord for us to get ahead. In exhorting the believers, the apostle Paul said, “Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful” (1 Cor. 4:2). It is when we are faithful in whatever the Lord has entrusted to us that we shall be exalted and rewarded fully. Jesus revealed this in his Parable of the Talents. In this parable, the master gave his servants talents to use. To the one who was faithful, he said, “’Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matt. 25:21)

Industrious. Hard work is needed for us to succeed and to reach the top. Many of the successful people we know started small, but their hard work rewarded them. To motivate us to work harder, we should consider who we are working for. The apostle Paul said, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23). Even King Solomon used ants to teach us a lesson on being industrious. He said, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8).

Reliable. We must be reliable and honest in order to be esteemed. Our honesty is tested even in small assignments. Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). We should be trusted to do the task, regardless of the problems that we encounter. We should not be the first to give up but should motivate others to endure. The apostle James said, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12)

Selfless. Selflessness is an attribute that great men possess. They are willing to make sacrifices for the benefit of others. They go with what the apostle Paul had said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). Selflessness can be demonstrated in a very practical and simple way. Jesus said, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35). Be willing to lay down your life for others.

Tender-hearted. A great leader is tender-hearted. He is able to identify with the people he leads. This is the reason why the apostle Peter exhorted believers saying, “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9). We should help carry each other’s burden and feel what they feel. Therefore, let us “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Rom. 12:15-16). Hallelujah!