The Way Up is Down
In the seventies and eighties CBS broadcast a hit sitcom called The Jeffersons. The show featured an African American family who became wealthy and moved out of a run-down area in Queens to a luxury apartment in Manhattan. As they celebrated their newfound promotion, the Jeffersons used to talk about “movin’ on up,” a phrase that has since become synonymous with the sitcom.
Whenever we speak of advancement or promotion, we tend to think of it as upward motion—climbing the ladder, breaking the glass ceiling, getting on top of the heap, upgrading, elevating, etc.— but nothing says it better than “movin’ on up.”
Up. It is the direction everyone wants to go, for the path upward seems to be the path to fame, fortune, honour, and glory. But isn’t it interesting that many of earth’s most precious substances can be acquired only by digging deep down? The person who is willing to go very low could become very wealthy. Engineers also understand that if they want to raise a tall building, first they need to go low and lay a deep foundation. So it is with promotion. Jesus said, “He who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11, NKJV). The low path of humility is the only way to promotion with God.
Joseph had lofty dreams of greatness. He saw his mother, father, and brothers all bowing down before him. But God’s way of promoting Joseph to the top was not what he would have imagined. Ironically, it was those very dreams of glory that bred contempt in the hearts of his brothers, who eventually sold him into a humble life of slavery.
Joseph’s path to greatness would take him through the lowlands of servitude, character assassination, and even imprisonment in the royal dungeon. For a while Joseph’s life seemed to have a downward trajectory, constantly going from bad to worse. I’m sure there were moments when he must have asked, “Why, God?” Wasn’t it God who had promised him promotion and influence? Had Joseph done something wrong? Is that why God was allowing him to go through such hardship?
Joseph descended the dark, winding staircase of humility and submission. When he reached the last door at the bottom, he discovered that this obscure, downward path had led him all the way to . . . the top! Almost overnight he found himself in one of the highest places of power and authority in the world. All along it was this lowly path that God had determined to use to lift Joseph up. Joseph discovered that the way up is down.