The Way Up Is Down

A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.
–Proverbs 29:23

One of the central characters in the sitcom “Seinfeld” is a middle-aged man named George Costanza. George lives at home with his parents, and he strikes out with women all the time. In one episode, George decides to do the opposite of what he has been doing. Instead of being timid around women, he starts acting flirtatiously. Instead of remaining silent during work meetings, he starts to speak out. To his surprise, he begins to experience success. While George Costanza is an agnostic in the show, he demonstrates a biblical principle: if you want to succeed in life, usually you need to do the opposite of your natural inclination. Instead of holding onto your life, Jesus said let go of your life. Instead of retaliating against your offender, forgive your offender. Instead of hating your enemy, love your enemy. Do what is opposite your natural inclination.

Perhaps the greatest example of doing the opposite of what we normally would do has to do with humility. In Matthew 20:26-27, Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave.” Notice Jesus says there is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful; but if you really want to be great, then you need to follow a different path to success than the world offers. The way up is down.

  • The world says: Look out for number one. Jesus said: Look out for others.
  • The world says: Destroy your opposition. Jesus said: Love your opposition.
  • The world says: Hold on to your rights. Jesus said: Let go of your rights.
  • The world says: If you want to be great, rule people. Jesus said: If you want to be great, serve people.
  • The world says: Promote yourself. Jesus said: Humble yourself.

Solomon understood the importance of humility to achieve success in life. Throughout the book of Proverbs, we find warnings against pride and exhortations toward humility.

  • “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate” (8:13).
  • “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom” (11:2).
  • “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud” (16:18-19).
  • “Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, but humility goes before honor” (18:12).
  • “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor” (29:23).

Somebody said, “Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the one who has it.” The truth is, pride is poisonous to the proud person too. The person who is infected with pride is ultimately going to fail, but the person who learns humility will succeed.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Way Up Is Down” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2013.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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