As Americans who live in the land of opportunity where everyone is said to have the chance to become something great, we love to hear of rags to riches stories. Among some who have gone from bleak circumstances and difficult family situations are such as Jim Carrey, Shania Twain, and J.K. Rowling — each with a compelling story.
But honestly, most of those who have fame and fortune were born into it or have certain rare gifts of intellect, talent or beauty that fast-tracked their success.
Occasionally, people in these categories are folks who know Christ as savior and have a life of faith and gratitude for the grace they have experienced. But more often their confidence is in their portfolios of riches or fame. The world flocks to such people and hangs upon their words, opinions and endorsements. I’ve never understood why I should care whatsoever about what a Hollywood personality thought concerning international politics or leaders; yet many are interested in what they believe.
Not many of us are very famous. Actually, to be quite frank, none of us are very famous whatsoever. Beyond that, we don’t actually even know many very famous people. I one time on a Sunday morning asked people to think of the most famous person they knew who would also know them in return. Then I asked for a show of hands to see who thought they had a significant answer. Honestly, even those who had a famous person who knew them in return, the respondents had to explain to most of the others in the congregation that morning exactly why the person they knew was famous.
So, if we don’t even have any real relationships with people even of moderate fame or influence, what hope is there that the creator-God of the universe should care or even notice us? The Psalmist pondered this very question, saying “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”
But the good news is that God has a special love and compassion for simple and humble people. Such are the type that God has used over and over in Scripture and throughout history.
And we see simple people being featured characters in the incarnation story of Christ. What was special about a carpenter or a young woman engaged to this fellow? Nothing, beyond trust and obedience and acceptance of God’s plans to use them. To the angelic messager, Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.”
Beyond Mary and Joseph, we see other simple people: Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, and the shepherds.
So there is hope for even us. The way Jesus came into the world modelled what his ministry would be like, and what the Gospel message would produce — hope and life for the simple and ordinary people of the world … to those marginalized in society, or at best, those who lived day to day, week to week, and year to year in rather mundane lives.
How did you get to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, an adopted child of the King of Kings? Was it because you were smarter than the masses of people who don’t follow Christ? Is it because you had so much to offer the Kingdom by your great skills? Is it due to your high standing among the elites of America … born into a sort of American royalty?
No, at the end of any analysis as to how it is that Christ set His love upon you, how he opened your eyes and ears and heart’s interest to even hear or research the truth of God’s word, it is all because of what GOD did in your life 100% by grace, and 0% by what you contributed. Even your faith, Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter 2, is a gift of God.
If you find yourself chaffing a bit at this teaching, if you find it to be a bit over the top as excessively degrading, let me tell you what Paul said (in 1 Corinthians 1) about those who are found in Christ …
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus.
It was this way from the beginning … from the incarnation of Christ into this sinful world …
Being in the form of God, it says that he “humbled himself to take on human form.” And the people chosen to be his mother, his earthly father … they were not of the aristocracy and powerful in Israel, but were rather simple working-class people, people who nonetheless would trust and believe and obey in an extraordinary way, even though it might bring them shame by the conventional standards of their world.
And so it is with us. We have heard his calling; we have been chosen and have thereby chosen to follow him. This is good news … unspeakable joyous news. The Gospel message is the story of Christ going from riches to rags, in order that we may go from rags to riches …
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.