In his book, Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Albom shares the following anecdote:
“It is 1979, a basketball game in the Brandeis gym. The team is doing well, and the student section begins a chant, ‘We’re number one! We’re number one!’ Morrie is sitting nearby. He is puzzled by the cheer. At one point, in the midst of ‘We’re number one!’ he rises and yells, ‘What’s wrong with being number two?’ The students look at him. They stop chanting. He sits down, smiling and triumphant (p. 159).”
We live in a society where being “number one” is stressed time and again. Our government prides itself on being a powerhouse when compared to the rest of the countries of the world. Professional athletes strive to make the most points and to hit the most homeruns, which of course means making the most money. The media glamorizes business magnates such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who have more money than what anyone could reasonably utilize.
So Morrie Schwartz issues a good question, “What’s wrong with being number two?” Actually nothing. In fact, most of us will never be “number one.” More often than not, we find ourselves being “number two” or “number three” or “number 100” or “number 1 million.” This might be disconcerting at times, but we must remember that the message of Jesus does not include this “number one” mentality. Jesus’ message has masters washing the feet of servants. His message charges the rich young man to sell his possessions in order to be a disciple. His message actually reverses the “number one” mentality and suggests that the first will be last and the last will be first.
If you enjoy college basketball, you know that there are 68 teams that are playing for the NCAA Division I basketball title. You also know that on April 7, only one team will remain standing. Only one team will be “number one.” In a single elimination tournament of almost 70 teams, someone eventually will be crowned “number one.” But outside of that team, there are still a lot of other good teams and many other excellent players.
And now we are back to Morrie’s question, “What’s wrong with being number two?” Again, nothing. Following Christ and being a good disciple means that we are one among many who choose that route. We choose that route because Christ chooses us to follow him. And even though we are special in Christ’s eyes, we don’t follow him to be number one or because we think we are special, we follow him because it is the right thing to do.