We Live in an Upside-Down WorldWe have discovered that God’s way, though it may seem contrary to human reason, is always best.
Although most people would probably disagree, many Christians affirm it whole-heartedly. The Bible declares this to be true: “When I am weak,” Paul says in his second letter to the church in Corinth, “then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). In this same letter the apostle says that God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong, and the foolish things of the world to shame the wise.
Throughout Scripture there are many examples of how human thinking is at odds with God’s wisdom. Consider these five areas.
In the eyes of the world, power is hierarchical. The colonel gives orders to be obeyed instantly by the buck private. The Bob Cratchits of the world buckle under the demanding requirements of the Ebenezer Scrooges. To be on top is to have control. Or so it seems.
In the Bible, Jesus says, “The last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16 NIV).
He illustrates this by telling the story of an ill, hungry beggar who scavenges for scraps of food that fall from the table of a rich man. After each eventually dies, the beggar finds himself in Paradise, while the rich man is in Hell, begging for just a drop of water on his parched tongue (Luke 16:19-31).
The beggar turns out to be blessed, while the rich man is doomed to torment.
As far as money is concerned, especially for those in poverty, it seems that whoever has more of it is at an advantage. But that’s not how it works in the economy of the Kingdom of God. Often, less is more.
In Mark 12:41-44, Jesus and His disciples observe worshippers as they place gifts in the Temple treasury. Many people put in large donations, “but a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.”
Jesus says to His followers: “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” Her gift, though tiny, was worth more than the huge gifts because it was given out of poverty, with love.
An unknown poet once wrote:
But Heaven’s arithmetic mystifies man When the answer is faith and a prayer. To get you must give, and to add you divide, and to multiply things you must share.
King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, says in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”
The everyman described by Solomon is not a blithering fool, casting all caution to the wind and choosing to live without concern for the future. He is a reasonable individual who makes what he considers to be solid, sane choices that will lead to happiness on earth and eternal life.
But there is something wrong with the equation. He believes his generosity to the poor, his general truthfulness, his regular attendance at church and his equal opportunity view of his fellow men are the right choices that will bring happiness now and a place in Heaven when he dies. But Solomon’s conclusion is that all this good activity leads to death.
The missing ingredient for this man is recognition that “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and need a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ, of whom it is written in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved.”
The truth is that we are not saved because we’re good; rather, we’re good because we’re saved.
VALUE OF LIFE
There’s nothing more valuable to a human than his or her life. Americans spend billions of dollars every year on medical care to extend our lifespans. Yet in John 12:25 (CEV), Jesus says, “If you love your life, you will lose it. If you give it up in this world, you will be given eternal life.”
The Master goes on to explain His statement: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24 NIV).
Mother Teresa is perhaps the most well-known example of a “lost life” bearing fruit. Salvation Army literature is replete with stories of officers and soldiers who died to self and thus reaped rich rewards for the Kingdom—some tenfold, some a hundredfold.
If the topsy-turviness of the world is evident in such things as power, economics, ethics and the value of life, it is even more so in the realm of reality itself.
The Apostle Paul makes an astounding statement in his second letter to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 4:18 he writes, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (NIV).
We are used to trusting in things we can see and touch. We sit in a chair because, from sight and feel, we know that it will support us. We look at the ocean, and we assume that it will always be there. We stand in awe of towering mountains and sense that nothing could ever destroy them. We view ancient buildings hundreds of years old and never consider that one day they will collapse.
But Paul tells us that, because we can see them, they are temporary. It is the unseen— faith, trust, love and the Almighty Himself— that are real and that will last for eternity.
The Apostle Peter reveals that, at the end times, “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10 NIV). But the permanent things, the unseen things, will remain.
Within a few years of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Paul and Silas set out as evangelists. In Thessalonica, things go well for three weeks. Then a group of envious men and their followers go to the city authorities, complaining that the Christians have “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6 KJV) and are disrupting the peace of their city.
It was true: Christians did turn the world upside down in the first century. Thank God the situation has not changed. God’s people today live with a different reality than the world. We have discovered that God’s way, though it may seem contrary to human reason, is always best.
This was originally published in the January 2016 issue of The War Cry.