God has a thing for the lowly.
- The lowly he sets on high (Job 5:11)
- He looks kindly on the lowly (Ps 138:6)
- The lowly in spirit gain honor (Pr 29:23)
- The lowly will be exalted (Ez 29:14)
- Whoever takes the lowly position...is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:4)
Actually throughout the Bible we read stories of God choosing and using the lowliest people. David was the youngest of his brothers, Ruth was a beggar and a foreigner, Mary was a teenage peasant, most of the disciples were poor fishermen, the people on whom Jesus poured out compassion were the outcasts, the broken, and the harassed. And he counted himself among them. He, himself, was lowly.
So I've been asking myself, "Jenn, do you count yourself among the lowly?"
I went to Amazon to see if there were any books on the subject. After all, Jesus talked about and modeled lowliness so frequently, you'd think that "lowliness" would be all the rage among his followers. There were a few books about Jesus' lowliness on the the third and fourth search pages. The first pages were filled with "Lowly the Worm," a Richard Scarry children's book character. Maybe Lowly the Worm has something to teach me, but I didn't see any titles like 40 Days of the Lowly Life, or Becoming the Lowlife God Made You to Be, or Your LOWLIEST Life Now!
As I reflect on what it means to be lowly, I am tempted to sanitize the idea. To turn it into a state of mind rather than a state of being. After all, the word is clearly related to humility, meekness, poverty of spirit. Those words are so much prettier and easier to dress up. And they allow me to keep my dignity intact.
The world trains us to disguise our lowliness, to despise our lowliness, and to do everything we can to deny our lowliness. And it feels like much of the Christian evangelical world feeds us the same lines, only they translate them to Christian-ese. “Work hard and God will bless your efforts.” “God wants you to succeed.” “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” I wonder what the martyrs would say to that one!
I’m not against success. I don’t think God is either. I’m against success being a way to avoid the reality of our own desperate depravity and lowliness. I'm against the idea that changing the circumstances of my health or my wealth can (or should) enable me to overcome my lowliness. And I’m really against the idea that God would want such a thing for me.
Because whether I count myself among the lowly or not, lowly is what I am. Christ, who is one with the Father, became lowly through the incarnation. I was born into it. And I’m beginning to realize that the Christian life isn’t about overcoming my lowliness, but embracing it. This is the economy of the upside-down kingdom, where first is last and gold is pavement.