Day 16

The Upside-Down Kingdom

from the A Living Hope reading plan


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

BY Seana Scott

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.

Post Comments (38)

38 thoughts on "The Upside-Down Kingdom"

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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! ❤️

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. Rachelle French says:

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

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