The Upside-Down Kingdom

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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. Melissa Coleman says:

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

  2. Claire B says:


  3. 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!

  4. Allison Bentley says:

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

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. Crystal Weaver says:

    Does anyone know what the next reading is for Monday?

  8. Crystal Weaver says:

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