The Abuse of Humility (part 2)
As with all right and godly ways of living this sinful world has perverted and created a toxic counterfeit of these. Submission and humility have been abused and people have suffered when it is not entered into in Biblical way.
After Paul gives three wholesome examples of submission he then gives a warning about a toxic version of this. This example involves a hierarchy of principalities and powers 1(Ephesians 6:12) 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world’s rulers of the darkness of this age, and against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places..
When God made man, He made Him to rule and have dominion over the earth 2(Genesis 1:28) 28 God blessed them. God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”. At no point did God say that man should rule and have dominion over man. God’s order for mankind was founded in families 3(Psalm 68:6) 6 God sets the lonely in families.. The governmental dealings upon the earth were based on fathers and families. It was also rooted in belonging within a family and not being rejected from this. For example, consider the early chapters of Genesis and its emphasis upon family and consider the family of Abraham 4(Genesis 12:1-3) 1 Now Yahweh said to Abram, “Leave your country, and your relatives, and your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who treats you with contempt. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”.
At the rebellion of Babel, mankind turned away from God’s plan and set up rule through the creation of hierarchies. Nimrod set himself up as a king and enforced his rule through military might5(Genesis 10:8-10) 8 Cush became the father of Nimrod. He began to be a mighty one in the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before Yahweh. Therefore it is said, “like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before Yahweh”. 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. . He extended his control by warfare (Hislop, 1975, p. 23).
The nature of hierarchies is one or a few at the top with descending levels of importance. The majority are at the bottom being ruled over by the few at the top. This is not true just for the government of states but it operates at every level of society. The leaders enjoy the privileges and rewards of their position whilst the underlings do the most menial and servile work to maintain the hierarchy.
Hierarchies are very comfortable and affirming for those at the top. They are extremely humiliating and give endless opportunities for rejection to those in the lower levels. They also create conflict as people try to ascend the hierarchy.
Mankind seems predisposed to create hierarchies. When God set up the nation of Israel He was their king. The Israelites rejected God’s rule and wanted a man to be their king 6(1 Samuel 8:6-8) 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” Samuel prayed to Yahweh. 7 Yahweh said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in all that they tell you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me as the king over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, in that they have forsaken me and served other gods, so they also do to you.. This was a blatant rejection of God. God allowed them to do what they wanted but it came with painful consequences. One consequence was that people’s lives were hijacked from what they chose to what the king chose for them. Also, their money, possessions and lands were subject to the whims of their rulers. One of the reasons why fallen mankind loves hierarchies is because Satan currently rules over this world. The fallen heavenly powers are established in a hierarchical fashion.
There are certain hierarchical situations that God has told us to respect and live under for the sake of the good of society. We are to respect and follow within the guidelines of God’s Word governments and rulers 7(Romans 13:1-2) 1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. 2 Therefore he who resists the authority withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment.. Anarchy, the overthrow of hierarchies or revolution tend to create worse hierarchies. Nevertheless, this corrupt principle of hierarchy will one day be replaced with the rule and kingdom of God.
God’s intention for His church is that Jesus is the head 8(Ephesians 1:22) 22 He put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things for the assembly, and the foundation 9(1 Corinthians 3:11) 11 For no one can lay any other foundation than that which has been laid, which is Jesus Christ.. Under that headship and upon that foundation are the people of God. Christians are all brothers and there is no place for one ruling over another 10(Matthew 23:8) 8 But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi’, for one is your teacher, the Christ, and all of you are brothers.. Now within the church different members have been called to different functions. These functions are functions of service not functions of hierarchical positioning. The greatest amongst the people of God are those who take the lowest positions and serve the most selflessly 11(Matthew 23:11, 12) 11 But he who is greatest among you will be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.. These functions have descriptive labels for example apostle, prophet etc. It is one thing to recognise the function in terms of service of someone in the church but it is a different thing to create a hierarchy and position people with labels. The hierarchical labelling of people with titles Jesus commands us not to do 12(Matthew 23:10) 10 Neither be called masters, for one is your master, the Christ..
Hierarchy within the church
The history of the church is the history of God moving and within that people being brought to place where they are living much more in harmony with the Word of God than the culture around them. However, as time goes on, after that move of God, the world’s culture becomes increasingly dominant over the grouping of people who came together. This means that hierarchy can become the norm within these religious groupings.
These ‘churches’ become increasingly characterised by leaders who become the figure heads for these groupings. There is a tendency to promote these leaders at the expense of promoting the Lord. Layers of people with titles fill the ranks of a hierarchy between the people at the top and the common members who are thought less spiritual and are seen as merely foot-soldiers to fulfil the vision and plans of the higher ups. People’s gifts and callings tend to be hijacked for the purposes of those further up the hierarchy. Those who object are marginalised, rejected and humiliated by the system.
The sad thing is that these groupings lose so much of the talents and abilities that God has given to the body of Christ. The work of God is greatly limited. Moreover, people increasingly see that moving up the hierarchy is desirable and much time and effort is spent in self-promotion rather than building up the body of Christ. Leaders can become increasingly threatened by ability and calling and those who have these tend to be blocked. Leaders become increasingly proud of their positions and titles. It is impossible for them to see the damaging influences of the system that has been created because it is so affirming and positive for those at the top of the hierarchy.
Those who try to expose the increasingly corrupt systems are denounced as cynical, rebellious and bitter. Many experience the ultimate rejection of being ejected from the church or placed in such a difficult position where they have to leave. Such is the mechanism of hierarchy.
God in His mercy moves again and a new grouping of people move into fresh liberty and for a time the body of Christ knows fresh freedom and liberty from this Satanic stronghold. The cycle will continue until the Lord returns.
Is God’s Kingdom a Hierarchy?
We know that God is the most high 13(Deuteronomy 32:8) 8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,. Michael is an archangel 14(Jude 1:9) 9 But Michael, the archangel, when contending with the devil and arguing about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him an abusive condemnation, but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!”. The word archangel literally means chief angel. There are those who are described as least and chief in the Kingdom of Heaven 15(Matthew 5:19) 19 Therefore, whoever shall break one of these least commandments and teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven; but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.. All of this indicates that there is a heavenly ranking and hierarchy that is right.
God’s hierarchy is not, however, a tool for the self-promotion of men. There will be a great reversal when God sets up His kingdom on earth with many who were at the top of their hierarchies finding themselves least in His kingdom. The first really will be last 16(Mark 10:31) 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”.
Just as Jesus humbled Himself and was highly exalted so it will be those who have suffered humiliation and rejection in serving Christ that will be those honoured in the age to come 17(Matthew 5:10-12) 10 Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.11 “Blessed are you when people reproach you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you..
All who take their place in God’s kingdom will be in exactly the right place for the good of all and all will benefit from the positions they hold. There is nothing manipulative of contrived in God’s government 18(Luke 14:10-11) 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes, he may tell you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”.
- Where are you positioned in the hierarchies of the world, in the workplace, in the church?
- How do you think the principle that the first shall be last will work in practice?
- How can we submit to one another without this becoming toxic?