Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2: 4-8
Do you struggle with how people view you? Or do you measure yourself monetarily, materially? Placing yourself on a hierarchal scale by what you have or don’t have, your finances, your level of success?
What if we considered ourselves in the light of this posture? Both poor and rich? By the paradox of this part of the gospel, there is great freedom.
In Isaiah 64:6 tells us:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
It is very tempting to think that we have anything of our own to offer up to this world or Christ. We are so desperately wicked, that compared to God’s holiness and righteousness, our best work, our best thoughts, our purest actions are tainted and soiled in comparison. Yet, we find in this prayer for the Ephesians: 3:14-21
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
In Christ, with His love and indwelling of His Spirit- we have the paradox. A pauper and outcast who has gained an inheritance to the Kingdom and to holiness! Access to the fullness of God!!! These things, these riches are immeasurable to our finite minds. All these glorious riches revolve around His love. A selfless and pure love. that we have the ability to reach out and grasp, to pray for, to be filled up with and indeed, overflow in a way that will surpass anything we can imagine.
A real understanding and acceptance of this love keeps us rooted in knowing that we don’t deserve it. Not one mite of it. A pauper pulled from the street, bathed, purified, healed and placed upon a throne next to God. Beginning to understand this paradox helps us with our chronic myopia, giving is corrective vision so that our hearts and eyes can see that our “stuff” and our “measurement” therein, is temporary and just that, our own. Our faulty and selfish own measure. Instead, we can be content and thankful for each and everything we have been given as though they are all icing on the cake, undeserved gifts, because they are! And out of that understanding we can be a people who revel in the glorious riches of being saved, being bought, being known and being loved without measure. Having more freedom to give our time, our money, our patience our compassion, as each day we grow proportionally in our understanding of our spiritual poverty and therefore, our spiritual riches.
Is this hard? In a culture where every material thing is measured in almost every interaction we have. Yes! Good Lord, yes it is. So incredibly hard. But I am asking Jesus to take away these stumbling blocks to my holiness, to my inheritance. These obstacles that keep me inward focused and therefore often keep me from loving better and serving more.
The minister in Moby Dick, giving a sermon about Jonah said this:
“And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.”― Herman Melville
I think that is true, it is the paradox of the battle between flesh and spirit.
Lord of All things, hear my cry. IN you, BY you, THROUGH you all things hold together. You are the all in all. Yet so many moments, so many days , so many weeks, I keep you small. I keep you limited in my life and instead I lift up and keep separate my success, my accomplishments, my “talents”, my stuff, my opinion, my politics, my task list. If my debt has been paid, if I am bought with the price of your blood, help me Lord to live out of that. Help me to disobey myself over and over, so that I may obey you and your paradox. Help me to keep my heart fixed on the riches of my relationship with you, maker of heaven and Earth, and not on the things of this world, however alluring, things that will burn. Give me valley vision, that as I do the doubt, as I walk through the valley, as I battle my poverty of spirit, my poverty of belief, my poverty of selfishness, that I will experience your Spirit ever tugging me towards true North, out of my darkness and out of the valley, and ever closer to you. May I be low and may you always be lifted up, May I always give you the glory for all that I have, all that is good all that you have done. May I not be callous to the work of your cross, that unimaginable spiritual economic, where you exchanged your Glory for mine.