Updated: May 18, 2020
As the mom of an almost 3 year old and a 5 year old, there is a constant battle in my home about who is going to be the first or have the most. My kids argue about who will open the door, who gets to walk down the street first, who has the most cars to play with, who gets to choose their cup first, and who gets to sit in the one specific chair at the table that they have both deemed as the best. For some reason, even though they both have more than enough, they always seem to be concerned that the other will stand in the way of them having what they need and want.
My 5 year old, Ava, has clearly had the advantage for the past 3 years. The first 2 of those years, she was the only who cared about taking the lead, how many toys she had in her hands, or what color cup she drank out of, so she got free reign in those areas. Her little brother, Jax, didn’t stand in her way. Once he turned 2, a switch flipped and the competition began. Suddenly, they were both demanding their own way. But Ava still has some major advantages. As the older sibling, she is stronger, smarter, and faster than her brother so she is often the natural winner. There are many times that I have to tell her to let her brother go first or let her brother choose. In those moments, her question is always, “What about me?” She quickly jumps to self-pity and complains about how she never gets to go first and how it’s so hard to be a big sister. Insert eye roll here.
These conversations are so frustrating to me, partly because I feel like we have the same conversation approximately 5 times a day every day. It’s also hard to see my kids drown in self-pity or throw a tantrum when the reality is that they have everything they need. As their mother, I’m looking out for them. I’m making sure that they are clean, fed, and taken care of and that they get to have fun things and do the activities that they enjoy. They are not lacking anything. Drinking out of a blue cup when they would have preferred a green cup is not going ruin their quality of life.
In addition to the frustration I feel in these situations, it also makes me so sad to see the inherent human selfishness in my beloved children. My desire for my kids is that they would love others well. I want them to be peacemakers who look out not only for their own interests but also for the interests of others. I want them to recognize when another child is left out and invite them in. I want them to speak up when they see that someone is being mistreated. I want them to celebrate the victories of others and grieve with those who are hurting. I want them to share what they have with others. I want them to be willing to sacrifice in order to make sure that everyone is taken care of. They cannot do any of this if they are constantly looking out for themselves.
In Luke 14, Jesus attended a party, and while he was there, he was saddened to see how people were jockeying for position as they chose their seats at the dinner table. Everyone wanted to make sure to choose a seat that would signify their own greatness. Jesus told them that instead of choosing the best seat for themselves, they should actually choose the lowest place.
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 14:11
He also instructed the host that next time he throws a party, he should not just invite important people or those who can repay him. Instead, he should “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and [he] will be blessed.” (vs. 13-14) Jesus tells the people at this party that they shouldn’t be concerned about the honor they will receive or if they will be paid back for what they have given. And yet, if they choose to live their lives in such a way that they honor others and give of what they have, they will be blessed. They won’t be lacking. They will have what they need and more.
This posture of putting others first and giving away without expecting anything in return doesn’t come naturally. The world we live in tells us that there is not enough to go around, and so we need to hoard and protect what’s ours. We feel threatened when others receive because we feel that it will be at our own expense, and we do not want to give away because it might mean we won’t have enough. It’s so easy to default to “what about me?” Whether it’s in relationships or in the ways we view public policy, it is natural to think first about how I will be affected. What about my needs? What about my safety? What about my tax dollars? What about my happiness? We want to make sure that we will be taken care of and that we will have everything we need.
This “what about me?” mentality only leads to division, fear, and strife. It separates us, fools us into thinking that we are in danger, and blinds us to the needs of others. It stands in direct opposition to the posture of Christ, the one who sacrificed his position, safety, and even his life for our sake, even though we were his enemies.
Jesus commands us to look out for others when he tells us to give to those in need, to love our enemies, to forgive, to show mercy, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Through both his teachings and his life, he shows us that we must live a life that intentionally seeks to put others first rather than asking “what about me?”
And as it turns out, when we look out for the interests of others, we will find that we have everything we need. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus tells us to
“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.”
If we focus solely on what we need, we will miss out on God’s Kingdom, but if we set our sights on God’s Kingdom and living in right relationship, we will receive everything we need. Upholding the dignity of others and looking out for the well-being of others is not mutually exclusive with our own dignity and well-being. The seemingly upside down nature of God’s Kingdom is that we receive when we give. We are blessed when we bless others. We experience love and mercy when we extend it to others.
There is more than enough to go around. There is room for everyone at the table. Our God is not a God of scarcity but a God of abundance.