The Last Shall Be First

(Originally written, March, 2003)

This month we experience March Madness as sixty-four NCAA basketball teams seek to be the lone survivor. My friend, Jim Woolridge, coachesS.W.TexasState(25-6) which faces odds of one in a billion of winning it all. But their odds are better than Navy’s of three trillion to one. Yet, it is possible for the last to be first. We live in a world in which competition has been so elevated that winning is everything, in fact it is the only thing.

But just last month one of the greatest people of our time appeared before a gathering in Washington D.C. of over 3000 key political, economic, educational, and social leaders. Joining the Clintons were Congressmen, Ambassadors, and C.E.O.’s from around our nation and the world. Four times as she addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, Mother Teresa of Calcutta received standing ovations. She holds no office, has amassed no wealth, but is one of the most notable servants of our time. She learned that excellence is not about ascending the ladder of leadership to greatness, but about descending the ladder of humility to servant hood. Motivated by her love for God, she has staked her claim on “last place”. She learned that whoever wants to be first must be a servant.

Where did we as a society, as a nation, and as a generation lost our bearings? When I was young I was taught that the baseball player who made the sacrifice bunt to move up the winning run, the football lineman who made the block to spring the long touchdown, and the point guard who led the basketball team in assists, all sacrificed so that the team could have victory. Today it seems that we honor only the winners, the scorers, the rich, the successful, and the stars for their brief time in the limelight, and when they are no longer our heroes, we cast them onto the garbage dump. Don’t we realize that fame, money, power, and pleasure don’t really satisfy, but giving ourselves up for others will always satisfy if done from a motive of love?

As C.E.O., my job is to keep the team moving forward. That means I have to get the “farmers” and the “ranchers” working together. Labor and management, sales and service, the warehouse and the office, merchandising and operations must all serve one another. Selfishness leads only to frustration and despair. Success is helping others to succeed. As I struggled to try to set an example, I looked for a way to reward our servants. Finally, it came to me. In order to produce servants, I had to serve. We produce in kind. Awards, money, plaques, trips, and prizes would cost me nothing and only increase our debt. What did I have that I could visibly give up? I decided to give up my parking place near the front door and park at the very back of the lot. The best servant for that month (the “last”) would be put in a spot of privilege (the “first”). This is only one small step. I hope to take others. How can you serve your spouse, your family, your neighbor, and your fellow worker? Are you willing to learn the lesson of greatness?

Speaking of Jesus, the Bible says that although He existed in the form of God, He emptied Himself taking the form of a bond servant, and being made in the likeness of men…He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross; therefore, God also exalted Him. The first voluntarily became the last and became first again. The lesson of greatness is servant hood and the motivation of servant hood is love.

Seeking to Serve


“The greatest among you will be your servant.”
Matthew 23:11 (NIV)


About kenthumphreys
Kent Humphreys has been a business leader for over forty years. He also served as CEO of FCCI/Christ@Work for six years and now serves as their worldwide ambassador, speaking, writing, and mentoring young leaders. He continues to be active in distribution, private equities, and real estate. Kent and his wife Davidene have written six books together. They have three children and eight grand-children.

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