Here’s to the downwardly mobile

I had a mind- and heart-stirring interaction this weekend.  On my way into the post office, a lady holding a toddler asked me whether I could spare some change.  I promised to do so as soon as I got out of the post office.  

I talked to her for a while when I got back outside.  She said she hadn’t had a job in a while, and she also had an 11-year-old at home.  I gave her what I had and headed home.  I kept thinking of her and that baby, who was crying throughout the conversation.

A society that honors the upwardly mobile–those likely to advance in economic or social standing–will, conversely, not esteem the downwardly mobile.  

Yet, Jesus calls us to make it our business to seek out, do life with, and be those very people.  

Downward mobility doesn’t just apply to economic situations.  In the beatitudes, Jesus identifies those that society considers “less than,” those who may be facing downturns of a slightly different kind:

  • The poor in spirit;
  • The meek;
  • The mourner;
  • The righteousness-seeker (paying a price for doing the right thing);
  • The merciful;
  • The pure;
  • The peacemaker (in the midst of strife);
  • The persecuted.

That sure turns a lot of our man-made beliefs about success on their ear!  Take, for instance, the “prosperity” gospel:  

  • Are the perennially poor less faith-filled?  Are they less hooked up to God?
  • How about those who are relentlessly persecuted for their faith in places like Nigeria, Sudan, China, and North Korea?
  • What’s wrong with my faith if I don’t get healed from whatever ails me?
  • What does it say about me if I never seem to enjoy “abundant life“?  

In her inspirational calendar titled “Rain on Me: Daily Moments of Hope and Encouragement,” Holley Gerth’s entry for May 9 reads:

“Christ’s death brought us life.  The last will be first.  When we give, we receive.  It’s a strange, mixed-up system that makes no sense to our human hearts.  It is, however, a promise we can cling to on the days when our hearts need hope.”

So, here’s to the downwardly mobile!  May we all find favor in God’s eyes and in His economy.  May those of us who are last, in whatever category, be first.  And may those scorned and shunted aside receive the blessings and grace that will make them spiritually and emotionally upwardly mobile.

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