When my oldest daughter Renee was 2, I began to write Renee Stories, one of which was Renee’s Upsee-dee-dee (her word for “Upside”) Down Day.
In this story, her bed and all the books she had not put away from the night before were all on the ceiling, and a light fixture was on the floor. She was glad when she heard Mom come in, because she knew that meant breakfast. Except Mom was wearing a shirt and a tie and was growing whiskers from not having shaved yet this morning. Daddy-O was wearing shoes on his head and a shirt over his legs, and he served her spaghetti and salad for breakfast.
But when he prayed for the food, he prayed,
Give us, Lord, our daily bread.
By His hand we must be fed.
And we thank Him for our food.
God is great and God is good.”
And when Daddy-O took Renee to the bathroom, instead of pulling down her pants so she could go tee tee, he put on another set of clothes and turned the light in the bathroom off.
Like Renee’s world in my story, this world is upside down. It is often the wicked who prosper. It is the proud – those who put themselves first – who are exalted. And yes, it crime often does pay, and nice guys finish last, too.
And so it is that when God sets out to restore the world, He uses what appear to us humans to be upside down methods. Consider the following statements of Jesus:
“The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
“Whoever shall find his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will gain it.”
And here, in the writings of Peter: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (verse 6). God “has called us to his eternal glory, after you have suffered a little while” (verse 10).
Someone who wasn’t a Christian might ask: “Now just what kind of world is God running here? Only if I humble myself can I be exalted? And only if I suffer first can I get glory?”
To which the Christian should answer: “Finally, you understand!”
In trying to understand this Upsee-dee-dee down world, I find it useful to play the word association game, using antonyms. For example, if I said “black,” you would say white, and if I said “night” you’d say “day.”
What about if I said “love.” You’d say, “Hate.”
Wrong!! (Ha ha!) O.K., you’re not technically wrong, but I have an even better
antonym. I believe that the truest opposite of love is not hate, but pride. If love is seeking the good of others, then it is pride that seeks only its own good. As the opposite of pride, love is therefore very closely allied with humility.
One of the clearest statements about how to live in God’s Kingdom, which turns right side up this upside down world, is found in 1 Peter 5:5 – “God resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble.” If you want to know how to live in God’s Kingdom; if you want to know how to be great in God’s kingdom, then remember this: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” It is the difference between pride and humility, between rebelling against God or humbly submitting to Him that makes all the difference in the world – and in your life.
First, “God resists the proud.” This is what Satan himself discovered when he rebelled against God and found himself cast out of heaven and then had his head crushed at Calvary, the Place of the Skull. This is what Adam discovered, as he chose to turn God’s world upside down and was cast out of God’s Garden, found that his work became labor, and saw the his life ended in death.
It was what the medieval popes found as they sold offices; lived in luxurious palaces; ruled as ruthless politicians; and were sometimes sexually immoral. You name it, they did it. Theologically, a church that put people to death for differences of opinion about the manner in which Jesus Christ is present in the Holy Communion is proud and will find that God resists it.
We are in no way immune from this principle. All the time, I come across people who consider themselves Christians but who would rather play than work; would rather pursue money and leisure than follow God; and insist on having their way in relationships. And then they’re genuinely surprised when life doesn’t work out!
But God, who is love, will resist the proud: it is a law of the universe as universal as the law of magnetic repulsion between opposites.
So, God resists the proud, but He also gives His grace or favor to those who humble themselves before Him. How? He promises to bless those, who like Jesus His Son, humble themselves and obey Him.
You’ve probably heard of the Peter Principle: “In a Hierarchy Every Employee
Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.” But I want to share with you Peter’s Principle. It also deals with relationships and hierarchies, and this is how it goes: “Submit to one another.” In submitting to each other, in our God-ordained roles, you are submitting to God, and humbling yourself before Him. In rebelling against each other, in our God-ordained roles, we are rebelling against God Himself.
Here’s a recap of what Peter has already taught in his epistle about Peter’s Principle:
1 Pt. 2:13 “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake – whether to kings or governors.”
1 Pt. 2:18 – “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear.”
1 Pt. 3:1 – “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands.”
1 Pt. 5:5 – “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.”
Therefore, according to St. Peter, by submitting with humility in relationships where God has ordained someone to have authority over you, you are submitting to God and His authority. Peter sums up this principle, in 1 Pt. 5:5b: “Be subject to one another.” This is linked with verse 6: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.” Peter directly links our submission in our God given roles with our submission to God. For Peter, it’s no good for someone to say “I’m submissive to God” and then to go his or her own way in every human relationship God has given to you.
Sometimes people ask me things like: “Where is God? I don’t see or feel Him.” The answer is: He comes to you every day in the relationships and circumstances He has put you in. You don’t see or submit to God because you refuse to believe Him when He says He is the one who has given you your presidents, governors, parents, teachers, husbands, bishops, and priests.
Therefore, if you want to receive the grace of God in your life, submit to those God has ordained to be His representatives on earth. And if you are one God has put in authority, you’d better submit to God too, by serving those under you in love. For “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
“Humble yourself under God’s hand, and He will exalt you” (verse 6).
Where is God’s hand, that I might humble myself before Him? It’s not only in the relationships where you are a subordinate: it’s in all of your relationships. It’s in every circumstance of your every day; it’s in the morning sun and the beginning of the day; it’s in the food He graciously puts on your table; He’s in your body, with all of its aches and pains; He’s in your finances; and He’s in your every decision.
We don’t see the hand of God in our lives because it is everywhere – and because we believe that things happen by our own power, or all by themselves.
The truth is that God is trying to humble you in every circumstance of your life, but you and I keep resisting it. Think for a moment all the way back to yesterday. Remember the humbling, even humiliating, things God brought your way. Remember the physical pain or discomfort; lack of money or resources; difficult relationships; or the trouble in mind or soul. Remember how you tried avoiding each of these like the plague?!
Regardless of the immediate cause of each of these, God desires to use each as a means of humbling you, to take you from yourself and bring you to Himself. You are to treat each of these as from the hand of God. Even if God is not the immediate cause, even if men mean these things for evil, God desires to use them for good in your life. For, if you humble yourself under the hand of God in each of these things, He will exalt you. And this is the real purpose of the circumstances of your life: to be a means to be led back to God so He may in time exalt you.
Haven’t some of you experienced that?
In each of these circumstances, God is asking you to cast your cares upon Him and to re-discover that He cares for you (verses 6-7). Too often, we prefer to try to handle things alone, and then promptly wonder where God is! We are like monkeys at times like these. When monkeys became a problem for humans by being disruptive when close to civilization, a humane way to catch them was developed. A clay jar with a neck that tapers into a larger bottom is tied to a tree. An orange that just fits into the neck of the jar is then placed into this “monkey jar,” and the trap is set. The monkey will place his hand in the jar and try to grab the orange; however he cannot remove his hand as long as he holds onto the fruit. So the monkey is trapped by his simultaneous desire for both the free meal and his freedom and will remain stuck indefinitely. It is then a simple matter for the villagers to attach a leash and collar to the monkey.
If only the monkey gave up his way, he could have his freedom. Like the monkey, if only we gave up our way and turned to God’s, we would find freedom, grace, and blessing.
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”
Prayer: Lord, I ask that today I would give up myself to You and that I would surrender my will to yours in every circumstance of my day. Use those You put in my life to teach me humility, and employ every event in such a way that I might desire to cast my cares upon You. Turn me from myself back to You, unclench the fist that I shake at you, the one that keeps my hand imprisoned in the jar. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- Keep a record of irritations, disappointments, discouragements, and pains throughout the day. How could each have been used to bring you back to God?
- What relationships has God put me in so that I might learn humility?
Resolution: I resolve to pay attention to the weaknesses and oppressions of this day and to endeavor to use each as a means of humbling myself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt me in due time.
© 2016 Fr. Charles Erlandson