I easily allow myself to be motivated and disheartened by using a gimcrack scale to measure progress. But by grace and life’s “setbacks”, I’m coming to learn the difference between Godly progress and worldly progress. This post addresses that difference as I act as amanuensis for Eugene Cho in an excerpt from his book Overrated.
You wouldn’t know we have everything we need by observing popular culture, or by flipping on the TV and watching a few commercials. The message coming through is: “Life is insufficient. You are insufficient. I am insufficient. You need more. I need more. We all need more. And once we get more, we’ll be happier… until we need more. Again.”
Once we have a lot, then we want more. We always lack something. So what is the antidote for this dangerous and seductive poison? What cures this endless drumbeat of commercialism, telling us that we are not adequate without a certain product?
Again, I’m reminded of the great power in the story of Jesus. There are so many things that compel me about Jesus, but one of them is what I call “the story of downward mobility.” It completely contradicts the movement of upward mobility that is pervasive in our culture. We want to upgrade everything at every opportunity. The incarnation, however, is the story of how Jesus humbled Himself and chose not to exercise His divine rights, instead choosing to take on flesh and bone and assume full humanity—being fully God but also fully man.
Born in a manger to simple commoners, Jesus assumed a simple lifestyle as a carpenter. Throughout His life, He owned nothing but the things He could take with Him. His life is the mind-boggling, heart-stopping, countercultural story of downward mobility.
A lesson for all of us to consider: Upward mobility may “win,” but downward mobility is countercultural. This is why people are so fascinated by a pastor and his family giving up his annual salary. This is why stories of people giving up their savings for people they don’t know are remarkable. This is why people are fascinated by someone who gives up a “good life” to go abroad and serve the poor.
Contentment does not come from our upward mobility. Our contentment comes from a life of gratitude and generosity. Our contentment comes in living in a truth that Jesus emptied Himself and invites us to live in countercultural obedience to Him.
* Are you currently stuck in the rat race of upward mobility? How should Christ’s example of countercultural downward mobility affect your motives and desires?