The Upside-Down Kingdom

Open Your Bible

Matthew 5:1-20, Matthew 5:33-48, Matthew 20:26-28, Philippians 2:3-8, Psalm 15:1-5

My daughter, Karis, and I strolled the aisles of Lowe’s, deciding which fruit we wanted to plant in a new potted garden. What might taste delicious in the middle of summer? I chose a thornless blackberry bush, and my kindergartner joyfully grabbed a strawberry seedling. We brought home a bag of potting soil and two plastic pots made to look like cast iron, and Karis softly covered the roots with her mini-me hand shovel. 

For the next several months, she doted every day with her cup of water to ensure the soil stayed within the perfect moisture level. And then sure enough, one summer afternoon, she ran into the house with a mouth full of red sweetness and a shout of glee, “We did it, mom! We did it! I just ate a strawberry!” I hugged her—and then it hit me. The seeds buried in the soil had to break open and die to bear fruit. It’s strange. To live its purpose, a seed needs to become a buried sacrifice.

But this is the way of the kingdom, is it not? The seeds echo biblical truth like a tiny parable. To live, we die. To walk the way of the kingdom, we serve. After all, Jesus—the author and perfecter of our faith—“did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). 

Maybe the modern-day parable of the strawberry seed is right after all. The sweetest fruit comes from sacrifice—an upside-down image for an upside-down kingdom. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, the humble, and those who mourn. Blessed are the merciful, the peacemakers, the persecuted—because the kingdom of heaven will be theirs. They will inherit the earth—with all the wild strawberry and blackberry bushes (Matthew 5:3–10).

Recently, I saw a story of the upside-down kingdom lived out in a modern way in an animated Torchlighters film about Jim Elliot. He and a group of men gave their lives in service for the kingdom of God by working to reach a tribe that had never heard the gospel. Unfortunately, their work cost them their lives as the Ecuadorian tribe felt threatened by their presence and killed them. 

Later, however, the tribe came to the saving knowledge of the gospel through the continued work of the women on their mission team. Jim Elliot is known to have said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” 

May we live with this same humility— like Christ, who being God, emptied Himself to the point of death so we might live (Philippians 2:5–8). May the seed of our lives serve others—at school, at home, or during the long zoom meeting—bearing much fruit, more valuable than an orchard full of strawberries.

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38 thoughts on "The Upside-Down Kingdom"

  1. Jessica Thomas says:

    Let me humble enough to serve just as Jesus did.

    I also pray for my middle child Lord. She is constantly struggling with her confidence and doubts herself. School swimming lessons are on her mind and I pray that you help her see her worth and realise that she can move mountains. You have told me you have amazing things planned for this child and I thank you that I have the opportunity to serve each of my children. Let you lead their lives and be an ever present source of light for them today and in the days to come.

  2. Ada McCloud says:

    So many ways to serve yet so many choose to not. Show me today where to serve

  3. Andrea Ingersoll says:

    Good morning. What a good lesson today. Each day I pray that God will help me to reflect Christ to those around me and that they see the fruit of the spirit in my life.
    I praise God for all his mercy and am amazed that Christ chose to die for ME.
    I love the story of the strawberry and will use it to explain Christ’s sacrifice to my grand children.
    I pray everyone here has a great day and walks in Gods wisdom.

  4. Crystal Weaver says:

    Ok I didn’t receive one either! Thanks for clarifying, I was afraid I had missed something!

  5. Rachel says:

    Good morning! Praying in particular this am for those of you in hard and hurtful marriages. A couple other resources that might be helpful are “What Did You Expect” by Paul Tripp and “Peacemaking For Families – A Biblical Guide to Managing Conflict in Your Home” by Ken Sande and Tom Raabe. God is for you and for your marriage, so come to Him with boldness and confidence as you pray, knowing that all His promises are YES AND AMEN!

  6. Melissa Coleman says:

    There’s also a book and movie about it ‘The End of the Spear’

  7. Claire B says:


  8. Madalyn Vincent says:

    I posted another reply but I can’t seem to find it, it may post double. I had reach out to SRT because I thought I might be missing a study book. They explained that we should have received and email the about what they are calling “Grace Weeks”, where we are to catch up on precious readings or pick a reading of our own for three weeks. I never received an email so I was extremely confused!

  9. Allison Bentley says:

    @Linnea- love this analogy!! Father help me bury my “seeds” in YOUR soil!!!

  10. Sarah D. says:

    Hi ladies! Wow, loved this devotional…the Jim Elliot quote hits hard. Two years ago in the last convocation at my college, Chris Tomlin was our guest and he sang a song based on that quote. He played it on Nate Saint’s guitar, who was another missionary that was martyred with Jim Elliot in Ecuador. I remember crying pretty hard at that as he sang with that guitar, haha. The lyrics said, “I place my life in your hands, surrender it all, I’m letting go…speak and I’ll say yes, Lord, it all belongs to you.” Two years later from when I heard that, it has me reflecting on my time after college and how the Lord has worked in my life, even though it has been so hard since then. He is still good.

  11. Katie Gandert says:

    I love the image of the meek inheriting all the wild blackberry bushes. It’s easier for me to picture than “the earth.” What a beautiful image. How many blossoms they would inherit this time of year!

  12. Crystal Weaver says:

    Does anyone know what the next reading is for Monday?

  13. Crystal Weaver says:

    Does anyone know what the next reading for next week is?

  14. Tami C says:

    I was bullied throughout my teenage years by the older girls and feelings of insecurity/shame/ and unworthiness have plagued me much of my life. I had a hard time making female friends bc of lack of trust. I’m in my 50s now and have been a Christian for about 8 years and God has redeemed and continues to redeem so much of my past. I still struggle with comparing myself to others and also wanting to be seen/commended when I serve. Forgive me Father and help me to walk in humility and obedience. Thank you for the healing you have done and continue to do in my life. Praying for all requests.

  15. Jennifer Anapol says:

    I pray that God would give me the strength to live this upside down life. It’s so hard to fully understand how to live this way. I know that I can only live like this through the power of the Holy Spirit. When Christian’s do truly live this way, we stand out in this dark world.

  16. Mercy says:

    Good day she’s, I hope you all are doing well on this fine day that the Lord has made:)

    I want to give thanks and praise to the Spirit of God, who always teaches me alongside these amazingly written devos and wise commentary of our beloved she’s. But the role of the Invisible Teacher (the Holy Spirit) is often overlooked, but today, I want to emphasize how He is so detrimental to each SRT devo I partake. I want to give thanks and special recognition to the Holy Spirit (My teacher). I always pray before I read that the right understanding might be granted to make ways through confused mind. And by His faithfulness, when I show up for lessons, He shows up to teach :)

    Some of the notes I jotted down/was taught today by the Holy Spirit:
    1- You become great in leadership through serving. How do we serve? Let nothing be done through strife and vain glory, but lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves (Philippians 2:3 KJV). Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:26 KJV). For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work (James 3:16 KJV). What a domino effect how quickly a vain desire can spiral into evil work. This reminds me of the advice of Paul, saying if you do charity work for vain glory (not out of true love for them, but for your own reputation), it will profit you nothing in the kingdom of God.

    2- Walk, work, and speak righteousness and truth from the heart (Psalm 15:2 KJV). Three things: walk, work, speak, the 3-in-1 package (note to self). What’s inside the heart will surely flow out (Proverbs 4:23 Guard our heart with all diligence because from out of it flows the issues of life)

    3- Turn the other cheek, resist not evil. This was tough as I immediately thought of abuse. BUT GOD… the Spirit of God said, I will resist evil for you that it shall not come near your dwelling (Psalm 91:10), (Matthew 6:13 .. but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen). Phew! Hallelujah. The Bible is a commentary in itself, and when I slip by reading too fast or without context, moments of terror can occur from misunderstanding. I just want to share this experience and the process of it, in case we stumble in our reading/comprehending, we can always know who to come to, the Author of the Book Himself, and seek clarity.

    I pray that God will always help us to understand His good will, though a lot of times could be misunderstood as harsh, and bring to our remembrance supportive scriptures, that we know the plans He has for us is to bring us peace, hope, joy and an expected end. His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. So anything that is not light or easy, those issues surely belong to the Lord. We are not called to replace God ( the “Savior Complex”), just to be a child of God within the measure of our capacity. Glory to the Holy Spirit who can teach us all things.

    Be blessed dear sisters.

  17. Donna Wolcott says:

    As I read the passages in Matthew 1-20, it brought me back to the series, “The Chosen”. I could visualize that scene in the episode. Prayers for all spoken and on hearts.

    1. Crystal Weaver says:

      Yes! We just watched that episode and I thought the same!

  18. Heidi says:

    RHONDA J- I think when it comes to marital-discord, you would be in the minority to not have any ;) ;) We have good seasons and we have “growing seasons”, but when I remember that my marriage is a calling, something intended to practice serving and glorifying God, it definitely helps my mindset (and my reactions!!) I wondered – have you ever read Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas?? It is an easy read, very to the point (and some entertaining personal stories) and just opens your eyes to a different Godly perspective about marriage and that man sitting next to you. His website is a useful source as well – GaryThomas .com (click books, then that one…). I don’t know – thought maybe it could encourage you (and your man too!). Hope you are able to get into a small group together this summer – being around others with similar struggles can always be helpful! ❤️

  19. Michelle Patire says:

    Thank you @Searching :) I am trying to heed the voice of the Holy Spirit. One day at a time.

    @Dorothy — continued prayers for Jake and your family. May the Lord guide and help you see He is in every detail… Was thinking about that when we read about how God fulfills every promise he makes and overlooks nothing (Matthew 5:18).

    I am always brought back to this- the attitude of humility and servanthood. You don’t see the fruit right away, and that’s why sometimes it’s hard to be a servant. But a commitment to humility overtime goes a long way… Credit to Holy Spirit speaking that to me as I write here. God always shows up in my writings… (Lol @Rhonda J, sometimes your “ramblings” have a purpose- we do get to know you more through them, too).

    Lord, help us to give people the benefit of the doubt, even beyond that, to hope for a heart transformation and Your Spirit to intercede in situations beyond our control. Help us to live Your word, not just read it. Like it says in James. Help us to apply it and hope others do, too. We can not control or convict, but God You are over all. Help us have patience and trust.

  20. Mari says:

    Beautiful! As I watched the sunrise and read this beautiful devotional, I know my God, my Jesus is here with me. Last night just before going to bed I was on the phone with my friend in Texas (two hours ahead of my Pacific time). We talked, we shared, and she spoke into my life. She was my former boss whom I love so much and miss you so much. I grieve her absence at my workplace. I am forever, grateful for this beautiful, godly sister the Lord has blessed me with. She was a boss, and also walk in humility because she worked/works for the Lord as she encourages me to do the same. Even though she’s miles and miles away, I can still call her and we can have these beautiful deep conversations. And then I read this and I’m reminded why I’m still where I’m at at my workplace, even when it gets hard. Happy Tuesday dear SRT she’s. It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous sunny morning here in California.

  21. Rachelle French says:

    Wow! Today’s reading and devo was GOOD. The seed must sacrifice and die to itself to be made new ❤️

  22. Linnea C says:

    When you bury a seed you don’t forget about it- you trust that something will happen, is happening, even though you can’t see it. You water it, make sure it’s in the best environment for growth- care for it. You wait with anticipation knowing all your efforts are not what actually makes it sprout- but oh the joy when it does, and then joy joy joy as it continues to grow and blossom. You know you are seeing a miracle and you can’t explain it but your faith grows along with it. Father, help me bury all my worries and the things that consume me in YOUR soil- that I may know and understand your greatness and your love more each moment of my life here. If I keep burying my seeds- just think of the garden YOU are growing!

  23. Rhonda J. says:

    I don’t think the phrase “living in an upside down world” has ever made more sense to me than in today’s climate. Things I never thought would be acceptable are the norm. It’s not because I’m OLD as my nephew would say cheeky, it’s because my walk with the Lord is closer than ever! I am in the word every day and it makes sense to me now how the Lord wants us to live our lives different from the world. It’s the story as old as Genesis, we want to live as we see fit, and the world sees fit…but with the Holy Spirit we will have a way to battle our sin and conquer- Thank God! It’s no longer “my truth” it is the LORD”S truth!

    It feels so good to know I am not the only wife in the midst of the frustration with my spouse, and mainly that you are in prayer WITH me! Thank you dear sisters!!

    You are still in my thoughts @Dorthy as you navigate the celebration funeral for your dear sister and also the challenges with Jake.

    Matthew 5:3-11 is one of my memorization scriptures this year! I am so bad at retaining!! lol! BUT there is a song by Elevation Worship “This is the Kingdom” so you can sing these verses!! So helpful. I try to sing it before falling asleep at night in my mind.

    Hoping you all have a wonderful Tuesday! (prayers for my back pain please and to find some relief!) I Have an MRI this Thursday, and then go to see a new Pain Management doctor in May! I have lots of hardware and scar tissue from being fused from scoliosis when I was 13. The nerve damage down my left leg is from a spinal cord injury when they screwed in the new hardware in a revision 18 years ago. There never seems to be many answers, I usually get “it is what it is” at this point except drugs to mask. I might prayerfully consider the electrical stimulator now that I am not as active. (How did I ramble as usual??)

  24. Candace Smith says:


  25. Cee Gee says:

    SEANA SCOTT- Thank you for this beautiful devotional! So much richness in today’s passages, too!

    SEARCHING – Amen. ❤

  26. Mary Walsh says:

    I pray that I may die more and more each day – so that Christ may live through me. Sacrifice, selflessness, love for those who do not and will not love in return. One of my regular prayers is that the Lord would make me small each day…that I would see my smallness in light of His greatness. My nature is to magnify myself. This is NOT the Kingdom way. Even Christ humbled himself to the point of death.

  27. Kimberly Z says:

    What a great sacrifice that was made for all us and a beautiful reminder of Gods love for us. I pray we can all live in humility serving the Lord every day. Happy Tuesday

  28. Jeanie Mclellan says:


  29. Kyle Hopkins says:

    If you’re interested in the Jim Elliot story, his wife, Elizabeth Elliot, wrote about it using letters and journal entries in her book, “Through the Gates of Splendor.” This book I listened to during my months of chemotherapy- it gave me strength and hope.

  30. Searching says:

    Lord, help me to love others.

    KELLY (NEO) – so good, thank you. Sin truly distorts what we see.

    Praying for those facing challenges, trials and seemingly impossible situations – praying for the Lord’s strength, comfort and wisdom, especially AUDREN BRUSZER, JEN KLASSEN, AMANDA HESTERBERG and others.

    MARI V – praying for VP discussion

    MEGAN GIBBS – so thankful you have come to know Christ and that you have joined us here, welcome!

    DOROTHY – praying for Jake’s mental health and that he would sincerely seek the help he needs, and for your protection from him seeking funds

    RHONDA J, MANDI D, CEE GEE and others in similar relationships- I hear you! Many years of frustration here, and wondering what is so hard about communicating? Especially since my dear husband was a skilled communicator in his field… lots of prayer for us all (and them!) as it makes no sense to me.

    MICHELLE PATIRE – praying for you and the relationship with your mother. It is a difficult one to navigate, especially as my mother and I get older.

    ERICA CHRISTIAN – praying for your mom and for you

    OLIVIA WINTERS – praying for an extra measures of patience and energy as you take care of your little ones, and await your sweet baby’s birth.

  31. Aimee D-R says:

    Father I want to shine Yourmlight on the darkness. It is hard. Go before me please and bless the work of my hands. To your glory and honor and in the name of Jesus, Amen

  32. Erica Chiarelli says:

    Wow. Thank You Jesus for Your beautiful sacrifice for each of us! ❤️

  33. Elaine Morgan says:

    One of my favorite passages! I love that we serve a just God. Upside down is a good way to describe how the tables turn from earth to heaven. I also love Seana’s reference of the seed having to die to give life for the plant. I feel overcome with love for the sacrifice that was made for me. So precious!!

  34. Andrea P says:


  35. Mary Ann Graves says:


  36. Kelly (NEO) says:

    God’s Kingdom seems upside-down because I am looking through the lense of sin. Looking through His holiness and righteousness, the world works differently.

    Lord, help me be in see with Your eyes.

  37. TIna says:

    AMEN, Seana Scott!

    Blessings wrapped in love hugs and prayers for this day, dear hearts..❤