In God’s economy, the way up is always down. I know that is a counterintuitive idea, but it is the Gospel truth.
All those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Luke 18:14)
This verse concludes The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus tells the story of two men who went up to the temple to pray and went home on two very different paths: one path leading to eternal life and the other leading to eternal destruction.
Now, if we were all truly honest and would take just a moment to examine our own hearts, it would not be that difficult to humble ourselves. How often we think things we ought not think . . . say things we ought not say . . . and do things we ought not do. What a mistake to enter into the presence of God like the Pharisee, who boasted about himself, saying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men.”
But for those of us who appraise ourselves honestly, as the lowly tax collector did, we know the way up is always down. Deep down, we know the truth: we are sinners, both by nature and by habit, and we desperately need a Savior—not just at the moment of our conversion, but moment-by-moment all the days of our lives. We cry out all day long, “God be merciful to me, the sinner!”
The promise in this parable is truly incredible. God will exalt all those who humble themselves. Think about it this way: is there any reason for us to be proud? Is there anything we have that we have not been given? No matter how much someone might think he is a “self-made man,” all that was “made” was made by the One who gives him life and breath and everything else.
The great 19th-century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, put it this way: “Oh Lord, sink me in self that I may rise in You.” There it is! Humility is not a work to be done in our strength; it is always and only to be done in the strength of the Almighty. The natural man wants to rise to the top and shout “Look at me!” Only the gracious strength of God will change the heart of the natural man so that he can say along with Spurgeon, “Sink me in self that I may rise in You!”
So . . . not knowing where this finds you today, can you say these words to your Lord? Which one of the two men who went up to the temple to pray do you most identify with? What would those closest to you say? Remember this truth about humility: it is not thinking less of yourself; it is simply thinking about yourself less! We should not think less of ourselves because we are children of the Most High God. But what we should be doing is thinking about ourselves less and thinking about our God more.
This is the place of peace. This is where meaning and significance are found. This is the great purpose and end of life. When we focus on God, we simply cannot focus on ourselves. When we get out of God’s way, we will see that the only way up is down.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!