The temperature is in the twenties. The chill factor is single digit. The West Texas wind stings the ears, and frozen grass cracks beneath the step. It is a cold December day. Even the cattle are smart enough to stay in the barn on mornings like this.

Then what am I doing outside? What am I doing standing in a ditch, ankle deep in water, hunkered over a leaking pipe? And, most of all, why aren’t the three guys in the truck helping me? Why are they in there while I’m out here? Why are they warm while I’m cold? Why are they dry while I’m wet?

The answer is found in two words: pecking order.

We can thank Norwegian naturalists for the term. They are the ones who studied the barnyard caste system. By counting the number of times chicken give and receive pecks, we can discern a chain of command. The alpha bird does most of the pecking, and the omega bird gets pecked. The rest of the chickens are somewhere in between.

That day in the oil field, our alpha bird was the crew chief. Beneath him was a former foreman, and beneath the foreman, an illegal immigrant. I was the omega bird. College students on Christmas break come in last . . .

I understood the pecking order. You do too. You know the system. Pecking orders are a part of life. And, to an extent, they should be. We need to know who is in charge. Ranking systems can clarify our roles. The problem with pecking orders is not the order. The problem is with the pecking. . . .

God says that love has no place for pecking orders. Jesus won’t tolerate such thinking. Such barnyard mentality may fly on the farm but not in his kingdom. . . . Jesus blasts the top birds of the church, those who roost at the top of the spiritual ladder and spread their plumes of robes, titles, jewelry, and choice seats. Jesus won’t stand for it.

It’s easy to see why. How can I love others if my eyes are only on me? How can I point to God if I’m pointing at me? And, worse still, how can someone see God if I keep fanning my own tail feathers?

Jesus has no room for pecking orders. Love “does not boast, it is not proud” (1 Corinthians 13:4). His solution to man-made caste systems? A change of direction. In a world of upward mobility, choose downward servility. Go down, not up. “In humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

That’s what Jesus did. He flip-flopped the pecking order. While others were going up, he was going down. (From A Love Worth Giving by Max Lucado.)

Max Lucado, Life Lessons from 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: Ageless Wisdom for Young Leaders (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2018).

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