I love this simple, plain little parable. It’s a great and clear reminder of the danger of playing what I like to think of as religion games. This happens in religion, any religion. We come up with a set of rules and it then becomes a big game to see who can be the most holy. But here in this simple little story Jesus reveals to us that the moment we try to win, we lose. These days I cannot help but think of Donald Trump here. How many times has he said, “we don’t win anymore.” Everything’s a game to him. Everything’s about winning. What he doesn’t realize is that it may actually be our striving to “win” that is the reason we “aren’t winning”.
The insatiable American idea that we have to be number one is killing us. It’s causing us to lose. And it is so because when it comes to humanity, the moment we pit ourselves against one another we lose. I love a little competition. I love that my daughter’s basketball games have a score board; that’s what sports are all about- the spirit of competition. It’s healthy in its proper place and to a proper degree. But when it comes to humanity, this is dangerous, and (I believe) in fact lethal.
I think another way of saying what Jesus says here is, “those who strive to win at being human, will lose. And those who recognize they aren’t winning- that is, those who recognize they’ve got work to do- will win. We are all in process. So, to the likes of Mr. Trump, I say that it doesn’t bother me that we’re not winning. I refuse to pit myself, my church, my religion, or even my nation against another. We’re all in this thing called humanity together. So let’s move through it together.