Updated: Aug 6, 2021
The Gospel’s Clash With Culture’s Radical Egalitarianism
God says interesting things. He never takes one side or the other … it’s always about bringing both sides into unity through Him.
One of the strangest things that grabbed me recently was this verse from Romans 12:16:
“Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.”
What?! “Condescend” is a terrible word in 21st Century Western society. Just read this grotesque definition from Webster’s:
“1. Show feelings of superiority; be patronizing.
2. Do something in a haughty way, as though it is below one’s dignity or level of importance.”
The mere thought of it makes me uncomfortable. God is telling us to act like pompous, arrogant know-it-alls? This isn’t going to sit well with the grievance industrial complex.
I foresee lawsuits and a Twitterstorm of self-righteous indignation. If this is what Paul actually meant, we have a case where Scripture contradicts itself.
But Scripture never contradicts itself.
Yeshua also told us, “Do not cast your pearls before swine.” Did he mean to say that “some men are pigs, and others are not”?
No, because elsewhere He spends entire sermons telling us that no one is excluded from salvation through faith in Him.
Just so, there is a context and a framework for us to apply to this command. We must discover what it is.
Why “Equality” of Outcomes Is a Myth
One look at nature ought to tell you our Father’s attitude concerning equal outcomes.
Eagles enjoy the freedom of flight, and wield the power of tremendously good eyesight. They can spot a rodent scurrying across the floor of the forest, from hundreds of feet in the air.
But that same bird, hunted by the fowler, would give anything for the gills of a lanternfish, to hide underwater and avoid the bullet of a rifle. His gifts are only eclipsed by his limitations.
This would be easier to accept if some human beings could fly, while others could live underwater. But on the surface, we appear to have little difference in needs, from one person to the next. Air, water, food, shelter, elimination, reproduction - on that level, it’s standard formula.
Only when we perceive ourselves correctly - as spiritual beings with physical bodies - that our differences and variety become clear. I’ve met people of tremendous gifting in certain areas … and been blown away when they’ve told me, “I wish I had your skill with language.”
On my podcast, Influencer Networking Secrets, I’ve spent the last two years interviewing the most brilliant minds I can find, including some very recognizable names in the Kingdom of God.
You’d be shocked to learn of the opportunities it’s afforded me, because of the things people sense in me. I can’t perceive what they find so valuable; I’m just being myself. But it doesn’t matter … what’s important is how they feel when we interact.
They feel the same as I do, listening to them … “This person has such a depth of knowledge” … “This lady projects warmth and enthusiasm like no one else” … “This guy could kill you as soon as look at you” … “She is an irresistible force” and so on.
Spiritually, we are incredibly different. Uniquely gifted, and uniquely limited. Forged and influenced by our heritage, background, ancestry, upbringing, education, surroundings, tribes and experience. There are too many variables.
That’s why it’s such a thrill to discover that rare person who thinks the same way you do … at least until you learn that in some ways, they think differently.
How To Condescend In a Godly Way
Believe it or not, the original “Condescender” is Yeshua Himself. God The Son, the Word Made Flesh, took on full humanity. It was one way He could later tell us, in Hebrews 4:15,
“We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weakness, for He Himself was tempted in every way.”
We also don’t have a foolish God, who lacks the foresight to anticipate sin’s abuse of the merit system. In an equally baffling passage known as the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, Yeshua compares His Kingdom to … a socialist system, where the man who works eight hours a day gets paid exactly the same as the man who works for one!
What do you make of that, Mr. Overachiever?
God understands - our pride can swim low as a lanternfish, or soar high as an eagle. We don’t have to become strutting egomaniacs, in order to be prideful. We can also swim in self-hatred, unforgiveness and cursing, to avoid surrender, reconciliation, union and intimacy with Him.
All very well … but what does it have to do with condescension? I’ll explain by sharing a little dream I have for my podcast.
I’m a big fan of Ray Lewis, the Hall of Fame middle linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. I love listening to him explain the mindset and strategy behind the game. I’d love to interview him.
If Ray appeared on my show, and I asked him about football, he would condescend to answer. Wouldn’t you agree? I’ve never played a game of full-contact, tackle football in my life. I'm a 100% certified armchair cornerback.
For all of Ray’s field prowess and force of personality, however, I wouldn’t need him to admit it - there are areas of life where he feels weak, unprepared or incompetent. It only takes a semi-private, 60-minute conversation to discern what some of them might be.
I’m not kidding - I have leveraged my “strengths” many a time, for people far more socially prominent than me. This is why I wouldn’t hesitate to ask someone like Ray, “How could I make myself useful to you? What’s the hardest part of being you right now?”
Like the Master, I am not a priest of God unable to empathize with the weakness of others - even successful, accomplished, influential others like Ray Lewis. The “completeness” status the world confers on people like him is phony. Ask anyone who’s ever achieved it.
I can condescend to anyone - once I know their weakness. That’s the rule of the game, and what makes “Christian condescension” so different from worldly condescension. If you understand God’s design for human interaction - that “we who are strong are to bear with the weak” - it makes for a much more level playing field.
And like the Master, I am here “not to be served, but to serve.”
Don’t read this and think, “Oh boy, he wants me to join the ushers or parking lot ministries.” We’re talking about caring enough to find out where people struggle, and showing up with your strength.
The purpose of your strength, in other words, is to lovingly and tactfully spend it, on behalf of others.
And the purpose of your weakness is to know you share in the experience of being human, so you don’t elevate one person over another - especially yourself.
Paul Edwards wears many hats – bestselling author, podcast host, executive ghostwriter, strategic connector. Hus
band, father, older brother to younger men. Amateur theologian, men’s physique competitor, voice mimic, and recovering insurance salesman.
A first-generation Spanish-speaking immigrant to the US with African heritage and Middle East combat experience, Paul lived in five different countries and speaks two languages. Paul does two things well: words and people. When he isn’t writing content for clients, you’re most
likely to find him building relationships and creating opportunities for his network.