First place…second place…third place.
I was born #3 in the lineup. I have two older brothers, 6 years, and 2 years older, and my sister showed up 13 years after me. I’ve gathered from stories that my mom was excited that I came along and was a girl. She had me dressed in all kinds of dresses and frilly clothes that suit the 1970’s style nicely. If you know me, I am now a jeans, t-shirts, tennis shoes kind of gal. Maybe I had my fill of extra girlie-ness from childhood?
In competitions, rarely is third place celebrated. The G.O.A.T. is not the G.O.A.T. because he is in third place. At least in the Olympics you can stand on the podium and display your bronze medal, but in most sports and other areas of life third place is rarely celebrated.
In the Kindgom of God, third place is our place. Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders of his day when they asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39 ESV
Love God, love others. Of course, Jesus is not suggesting that we don’t take care of ourselves. Many others have written about how we need to do “self-care.” I am of the thought that we already can do that pretty well. Jesus was suggesting that our focus is not on “self-care”, but our focus is on loving God well through worship, prayer, reading His Word, and the second is like it, loving others through serving and taking care of others’ needs like we do our own. I think we need to be cautious in not allowing “self-care” to take over our need for God to be first. While Jesus was doing God’s will he was more concerned about “selfless-care.”His priorities were God’s priorities.
So, in the loving others bit Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi about how we are to go about loving others.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant that yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 ESV
From the Oxford Languages it describes conceit as excessive pride in oneself, or even related to vanity. From Dictionary.com it says conceit is, “an excessively favorable opinion of one’s own ability, importance, wit, etc.”
Paul suggests the solution to this negative attitude of conceit is to “count others more significant that yourself.” And then, how do we do that? “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” verse 4. It goes further than just looking to the needs of others, which is important, but also to the interests (or more closely to the Greek, the things, or this and that) of others. I believe if we know the needs of others, we will do our best to meet them, but to care about the interests of others? I am so not interested in a lot of things! I don’t have much interest in cats, the latest fashion, the show Friends, or NASCAR. However, I do like watching puppies play, the Arizona Cardinals, and hanging out with my wonderful husband. It would be easy for me to write people off who have opposing interests. This is where 3rd Place comes in.
We can write people off so easily. I am guilty.
Can I be ok with 3rd Place? Can God be in first, and others in second to the degree that I consider and take note of the interests of others? I must. In the Kingdom of God, third place is my place – I’m working hard with the Spirit’s help to be in third place and to be OK with it.