Penthouse, please

When I started this here little blog a year and a half ago, I had high expectations of sharing wisdom and insight that would change people’s lives and make the world a better place. My readership would multiply exponentially as folks recognized the truth of what I shared, applied it to their lives, experienced blessings because of it, and passed it along to others. I would be encouraged to regularly expound on various contemporary issues as they related to the truths of God’s Word and know that my efforts to express what I believed God had taught me were making an eternal impact.

Well…that was then. This…a more realistic me with humbler expectations…is now. Though I still believe that God has graced me with a certain measure of insight thatIzumi_Garden_Tower_outer_elevator he wants me to share (though quantitatively more meager than I previously led myself to believe), I also think that he is teaching me to be less concerned with whatever impact I may be having and more concerned with simply obeying his will. He’s opening my eyes to motivations of recognition and praise that are antithetical to a life of service to him, and keep me from knowing him better and having the impact that I desire. It’s all about towers and elevators. May I share it with you?

If there’s one thing that has wrought more trouble, pain, and hardship in this world than anything else, it has to be the desire to elevate oneself above what God has designed us to be and above each other. Beginning with the first man and woman who succumbed to the temptation to “be like God” instead of aligning themselves with the truth of their utter inferiority when compared with him, to every single one of us today who criticize and condemn others so as to elevate ourselves to a position of superiority. We see where Adam and Eve’s sin got them…and us. But do we see how our own pride and efforts to exalt ourselves have just moved us further away from the contented, joyful, satisfying life we strive for?

When I was (and still am sometimes) focused on how my blog measured up to others’, I was confused and discouraged by the overall lack of affirmation and feedback, and my puny viewer stats. Though I’m confident my motivation was partly to share what I had learned with as many as possible so that they would be blessed and God would be glorified, it was also to gain a little height as increasing instances of influence elevated me above my peers. I was looking to build me a tower.

Jesus often chastised his listeners for this very human tendency to elevate oneself, and on one occasion his rebuke referenced the collapse of an actual, physical tower, which he used to highlight and condemn the figurative towers we build for ourselves. In Luke chapter 13, some had called his attention to a particular tragedy that had befallen a group of Jews, apparently suggesting that they had deserved it. Jesus straightaway turns the spotlight on them, pointing out their self-deception in assuming moral superiority. Then he calls their attention to another tragedy where a tower fell and killed 18 people, knowing that this also was seen by them as evidence that those who were spared were more righteous. “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?” he asked. “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”1

We all, no matter how outwardly righteous and unscathed by seemingly punitive circumstances we may be, are called to repentance. Because none of us is truly righteous. If we think we are, then we are most certainly guilty of, at the very least, the first “deadly sin” of pride. The only attitude God blesses is one of humility. “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”2 Repentance and humility bring salvation and exaltation.

Consider the parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15. The man had two sons…one who demanded his inheritance and wasted it all on loose living, and the other who submitted to his father and thought himself superior because of it. When the wayward son returned to the father in humility and repentance, he was received joyfully and exalted with a sumptuous feast and fine clothes. The other refused to celebrate with his father and chose to remain outside because of his resentment and self-righteousness.

So the one who did not seek exaltation but instead recognized his lowly position and that he deserved to be there, was put on an elevator and taken to the penthouse by his father who loved and forgave him. And the one who believed he deserved the penthouse suite was left dissatisfied and resentful. This is a lesson I am struggling to learn well – exalt myself and I will be humbled; humble myself and I will be exalted – though it rings so true in my heart and is a clear expression of the compassion and love of God.

I believe God wants to exalt every single one of us, but it has to be his doing and requires a foundation of a humble submission to him as our Lord and Master. Without that foundation we are bound to fall. Perhaps a saying common in excavating, an industry that lays the groundwork, beneath the ground, for buildings tall and small, would be helpful in keeping a proper focus: What goes up must first go down.

1Luke 13:4-5

2Luke 14:11