Stop Looking Down!

By Joel A. Hess

Western society is obsessed with living here for as long as possible. The manifestations of this focus at first seem grand and hopeful. We spend tons of money to cure diseases. We spend billions putting people on Mars. We can talk to our parents in Michigan while living in Prague. We can watch the Olympics in Rio from our living room in Ann Arbor. We have done so many cool things that many truly put all their hope in our endeavors, whether explicitly or subconsciously. “The sky is the limit,” exclaim the progressive achievements of man! Yet what a limit it is!

Ironically, our grandest endeavors are the result of looking down, not up! Down at the earth. Down at ourselves. Down at the grave. We look down and no longer look outside of our box. So it was when men gathered to make a name for themselves in Babel. Oh, they made a name for themselves, as they are remembered for their ruin even today. Seemingly harmoniously, they worked together to build the tower so that they would not be scattered. So shortsighted, really. The sky? Our creator dwells above the skies!

So we live longer than ever before by a paltry couple of years. So we can cure a once devastating disease only to die by another. So we can spend billions on healthcare only to gather at the graves of every single citizen of our empire built on sand.

If we resign ourselves to returning to dust and nothing more, then I suppose we deserve a pat on the back.  Looking downward, staring at the dirt, staring at the grave, we hurriedly build towers to avoid our doom. Like our Babel ancestors, our accomplishments are the manifestations of fear more than joy.

Sadly, even church bodies spend more time and money looking down and building towers. Even though they have a treasure not made with hands, secure in heaven, and won by Christ to be shared with everyone, they desperately try to cure all diseases and improve the world with sermons and mission projects that sound no different than a political rally. Watch out for churches that are trying to make the world better.

Jesus says to them and modern man, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

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Stop looking down, Christians! Drop your baked bricks, and lay down your hope in the work of your hands.

Look up to God—to Christ. Look outside of your dark box. Look to Him who looks down on you. Jesus was not satisfied with our demise. He looked down and came down, all the way down. He looked down and came down in the virgin womb of a poor Jewish girl. He came down into shit and straw in a manger. He came down like a diver looking for pearls, like a man looking for treasure in the earth. You are the pearl. You are the treasure. Stinky, downward-looking, sinful you. You are the tower which He built with His own pierced hands.

He looked down from the cross, wrapped in all of our lusts, greed, murder, pride and envy. He went down to the grave of which we are so afraid. He comes down in water and words, in bread and wine, forgiving completely so you may look up—so that you may no longer live in fear, running from the abyss.

Look up and see Him coming in glory. Look up and see the new heaven and new earth where the sky is not the limit, where He who was up dwells with His people forever.

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2 comments

  1. Missions do not change the world but they do show the love of God and they do reach out to the least and the lost – at least, they should. too much looking up toward the end led many early Christians to embrace their being in the end times, not marrying, not having children, not, as Luther would say, planting trees. We are assured of our demise (looking down) and our reward (looking up). In faith, then, we can look outward to our communities and neighbors and live lives in Christ. A life of faith cannot help but do good works. We were created for this (Eph 2:10, Titus 3, 2 Tim 3:16-17). We are freed from anxiety for loving service, not so that we can look up and think of glory but so we can look out and share, commiserate, love, pray and intercede, act against privation, sorrow, anger, depression, live our lives in abundance (John 10:10). The surety of our vertical relationship allows us to live horizontally. God’s gifts strengthen us for this purpose.

    I react to this because I’ve grown up for the last 50 years among Lutherans so afraid of work’s righteousness that they do nothing but watch their congregations die as they age out, forging no ties to any not coming in for Word and Sacrament, not calling out, not participating in the harvest, sharing the joy. They will most assuredly have their reward in heaven but, what a life they’ve missed!

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  2. Look up, look down…that’s a start of a childhood jockularity. I like o start the day looking down: acknowledging that I’m but dust, that I don’t deserve His grace, sufferings, death & that I am not worthy to be His lowest servant- but suddenly He lifts me up, hugs me and I look up & raise my hands while joining in with the hosts of heavan singing hallelujah, worthy is the lamb or Jesus Christ is risen today. Then I must go out into the world, drive my truck, share the road with you 4wheelers (that’s what we call you on the cb) and while my eyes are on the road I try to focus my spiritual eye on Christ. Remembering that ‘the life which I live, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20) & ‘…use not liberty for an occasion for the flesh but by love serve one another’ (Gal 5:13) & as long as I’m walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:25) there is love & joy & peace but of course I get off track, want to go my own way succumb to pride, lust or greed. Time to look down again.
    (Thanks to whoever suggested I study Galations; God has blessed my time there).

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