Downward Mobility

Google returns about 282,000 results in the English language for the phrase “upward mobility” or “upwardly mobile.”

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines “upwardly mobile” as “advancing or likely to advance in economic and social standing.” This is an important characteristic in our society. There are resources for those who want to be more upwardly mobile, and programs to help others become more upwardly mobile.

The other day my wife and I invited a neighbor over for dinner. “You don’t want to have me over,” he said. “I’m nobody,” he said.

That has stayed with me the last couple of days, particular as we read through Matthew and look at Jesus’ words and actions. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…those who mourn…those who are persecuted,” he said (Matthew 5:3-10).

James 1:27 says that a key component of pure and undefiled religion is to care for orphans and widows in their affliction.

The end of Matthew 25 is a summary of how our Christian life should be marked: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming strangers, and visiting the sick and imprisoned.

God is most definitely interested in those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

Sometimes it makes me uncomfortable to be around people who are dirty, or needy, or just rough around the edges. “Why haven’t you learned societal norms or practical life skills,” I sometimes wonder in my head. “If I get too involved with you, it will suck up all my time trying to solve your many problems,” I think to myself.

How do I become more comfortable, more at-ease, better able to accept and be accepted by people who seemingly (by worldly standards) have nothing to offer? How do I become more willing to spend my time investing in people who can’t offer much in return? In short, how do I become more downwardly mobile?

Searching the internet for “downward mobility” or “downwardly mobile” yields about 99,600 results. I’m actually surprised to find that many. A lot of the results are articles that deal with how to solve the “problem” of people who find themselves moving “the wrong way” (down) on the socio-economic ladder. A few (here, here, and here) echo some of the sentiments I’ve expressed.

Henceforth, I wish to be a “Mobilite,” modeled after the apostle Paul, who was fine with either poverty or prosperity (Phil. 4:12) and fit in equally with both Jews and Gentiles (1 Cor. 9:21).

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