Traveling First Class

I read an interesting bit of information recently that reminded me of certain attitudes and habits among us that need to be challenged by the vision of reality that Jesus came into the world to embody.

The information comes by way of famed preacher John Claypool and harkens back to a time when the stagecoach was the primary means of transportation in the Wild West.

The vehicles back then were relatively small.  At most, they carried six passengers.  However, there were still classes that were recognized.  Tickets were sold just like today on modern airlines in first, second, and third class.  Those with third class tickets” were said to be traveling by coach, even those all were in the same small compartment.  What was the distinction?  Well, it had nothing to do with the size of the seat of what kind of food that was served.  Rather it referred to what was expected of the ticket holder if the stagecoach got into some kind of trouble.

If you were fortunate enough to have the means to purchase a first class ticket, which was the most expensive, you were entitled to remain in the stagecoach no matter what conditions might be faced.  In other words, you were exempt from having to put forth any kind of effort on behalf of the stagecoach.

If  you had a second-class ticket and some type of trouble arose—say, for example, the stagecoach got stuck in the mud or had trouble getting up a hill—you would have to get out and walk alongside the stagecoach until the problem was resolved.

The cheapest ticket—the third class or coach ticket—required the ticket holder to be even more aggressive in their response to any challenge or difficulty.  Not only did they have to get out of the coach when there was a problem, they also had to, alongside the driver, get down in the mud and do whatever had to be done so that the vehicle could either get through the mud or get up the hill.  We might call it “sweat equity.”  Traveling “coach” was obviously the least prestigious way to go.

When I first learned about this practice on the stagecoach, I remember thinking how reflective it is of our human nature to equate the category of first class with privilege and being exempt from having to do the most menial kinds of work.  Moreover, it also dawned on me how radically different Jesus’ would look at such things.  When he came to live upon the earth, he gave a very different interpretation to this metaphor of first class.  In the most literal sense, Jesus turned the value system of the world upside down.  He dared to say that in God’s eyes, first class was not the privilege of having everything done for you, but rather having the willingness to do the opposite and assume the role of a servant.  Jesus said that the first class citizens of the Kingdom—those who would be Kingdom leaders—would be those who take an active role as this world’s servant.  Kingdom leaders are those who arrive early, stay late, and get hands dirty.  They are those who sit in the back so that others can have the seats of honor up front.

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One Response to “Traveling First Class”

  1. Service really is the quintessential Christian life. Thanks for the article that puts an accent on that.

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