Before complaint became a national way of life, it was considered an honor to serve someone. There was no higher cause than to provide for the needs of others out of love. – Bill Hybles, Descending into Greatness
In his book Descending into Greatness, Bill Hybels wrote about the pecking order of chickens. Put 10 chickens in a pen together, sprinkle some feed on the ground, and prepare to witness a natural phenomenon. In a matter of minutes, the chickens will establish a hierarchy of dominance – a.k.a. a “pecking order.” Instinctively they determine who is number one, number two, number three, and so on…
“Much is at stake in this dance of domination,” Bill writes. Chicken #1 pecks Chicken #2 without retribution. Chicken #2 pecks Chicken #3, and all the way down the line. But Chicken #10? This chicken is pecked with no one else to peck. What a miserable deal! What a miserable life!
This pecking order is more nuanced among humans, but we know it when we experience it. Maybe at a business luncheon where everyone is focused on networking with the top business producers, or at a class reunion where we relive the years of cliques and popularity, or even at home where we compare the car in our garage to that of our neighbors’.
Why are we narrowing in on the common occurrence of viewing others as either above us or below us? What does it matter?
It matters because many of us treat those above us in the pecking order with greater admiration, cordiality, and honor – even though we may secretly envy or despise them. And those below us? We may treat them with insensitivity, callousness, or even contempt. Think about it: if the VP of our company requested a favor, we’d be all over it. But if the janitor needed five minutes of our time, we might check our watch.
For those below us, showing them honor is optional. That’s ugly, isn’t it? Especially when we serve a God who led by serving. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14).
Jesus, we don’t want to be Chicken #10. It feels voiceless and powerless to be at the bottom of the pecking order. But if there is something special to experience down there, with You, lead the way. Take us on a journey of releasing hierarchy. Amen.
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