When to Choose to Lose

“The last shall be first.”  Matthew 20:16

The benefit of choosing to lose is not just limited to weight loss.  Although in most arenas of life losing carries negative connotations, especially if it is a choice; there are times when choosing to lose is the wisest, most beneficial thing we can do.  In fact the Bible spells out some specific circumstances in which we are actually encouraged to choose to lose.

Choosing to lose is not something most people find easy to do.  We do not want to lose.  However, choosing to lose in a Biblical sense is rooted in a confident trust in God.  It is only possible when we yield our expectations and preferred results to Him.  

A case in point is when we find ourselves in an interpersonal conflict.  Disagreements of opinion have a way of escalating as all the parties involved seek to prove the rightness of their point of view.  We naturally associate proving we are right with winning the conflict.  But the Bible, in its wisdom, indicates that in some circumstances, the best course of action is to choose to lose. 

Some conflicts are ultimately won through choosing to lose rather than choosing to win. 

The book of Proverbs gives a number of illustrations of this lose to win strategy in relational conflict.  “Without wood a fire goes out; without gossip a quarrel dies down.” (26:20)  “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (15:1)  “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (19:11)  Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man.  But any fool will quarrel.” (20:3) 

It takes faith to walk away from a fight, to forgo winning at all costs and to hold your peace.  Early Good Friday morning we see Jesus doing this very thing during His interrogation by the high priest.  “But Jesus remained silent,” we are told. (Matthew 26:63)  Jesus could have put the high priest in his place and told him a thing or two, but He chose to lose, because He knew “Sunday was coming!” when His Father would vindicate Him.

Jesus extolled the virtue of being last – of losing.  “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5:39)  In other words, choose to lose. “So the last will be first and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)  Jesus made it plain there is no shame in losing, and that in the end, losing may be the only way to ultimately winning and being first.  

Being first in God’s book is often different than being first in ours.  Jesus redefined winning and we would do well to take note of it.  For Him, being first means being more like Him.  “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44-45)  Winning is more about loving and forgiving than being right.  When love and forgiveness prevails, everyone wins.

We experience this all the time when we are behind the wheel.  Whether we are merging onto a freeway, turning into traffic on a busy road or cautioned by a “yield” sign, we are forced to make a conscious choice to lose by accepting a lesser place in the pecking order.  But the benefit of choosing to lose is of course that it smoothes the forward progress of everyone involved while also helping prevent an accident.

When Abraham’s and Lot’s herdsmen quarreled over having sufficient land for their livestock, Abraham did a bold thing.  Even though the land of Canaan in which he was dwelling was his by virtue of God’s promise, to settle the dispute, Abraham gave his nephew Lot, the first choice as to where he preferred to live.  Abraham effectively made a choose-to-lose decision.  “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers.  ‘Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me; if to the left, then I will go to the right; or if to the right, then I will go to the left.’” (Genesis 13:8-9)  Lot chose what looked like the most verdant and well watered land and Abraham was relegated to the leftovers.  But after their separation, God appeared to Abraham and basically said, “Don’t sweat it, in the end you’re going to get it all – ‘The last shall be first!’” (vs. 13-14)  And in hindsight we know that Lot’s choice turned out to be a bad one because it took him down to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Choosing to lose is a faith transaction in which we yield our will and our way to God in exchange for His.  Ultimately it will lead to a win that is by God’s definition and not ours.  

What have you learned about when to choose to lose?

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