The Way of Downward Mobility

Henri Nouwen 2I’ve been cleaning up some long-standing piles of “things to be filed” and among them, I found this challenging quote from Henri Nouwen and his book, Here and Now, (138-139). 

“The compassionate life is the life of downward mobility! In a society in which upward mobility is the norm, downward mobility is not only discouraged but even considered unwise, unhealthy, or downright stupid. Who will freely choose a low-paying job when a high-paying job is being offered? Who will choose poverty when wealth is within reach? Who will choose the hidden place when there is a place in the limelight? Who will choose to be with one person in great need when many people cold be helped during the same time? Who will choose to withdraw to a place of solitude and prayer when there are so many urgent demands from all sides?”  

(Henri Nouwen)

The voice calling us to upward mobility is completely absent in the Scripture.


It just isn’t there.

Nouwen continues.

“Jesus says: ‘Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life’ (John 12:25). He also says: ‘Unless you become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:3). Finally he says: ‘You know that among the gentiles the rulers lord it over them, and great men make their authority felt; among you this is not to happen. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came, not be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matthew 20:25-28).”

“This is the way of downward mobility, the descending way of Jesus. It is the way toward the poor, the suffering, the marginal, the prisoners, the refugees, the lonely, the hungry, the dying, the tortured, the homeless–toward all who ask for compassion. What do we have to offer? Not success, popularity, or power, but the joy and peace of the children of God.”

This is what it means to live passionately for and like Christ. We live to serve others not ourselves. We live for the comfort and the security of others, not ourselves. We live not to rule over but to serve under. This is what your pastor is praying for in his own life and in your lives as well. It’s what Jesus desires for all of who claim Him as Lord.

Church and life played by Jesus’ rules is a serious joy because the One we serve and the cause of His Kingdom is the treasure hidden in the field.

3 thoughts on “The Way of Downward Mobility

  1. Very appropriate for me at this point of my life. I have never asked for downward mobility, but learned forty years ago to thank God for His provision — even when it meant the end of my chosen career, or cancer, or Parkinson’s. As I’ve abandoned the way of upward mobility, I’m finding more time to imitate Enoch: Genesis 5:24 “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” So far I’m still in 5:24a, but thanks to that journey, I’ll be ready for 5:24b when the time comes.

    Liked by 1 person

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