The Bible quickly scissors away a person’s self-admiration, a sense of having “made it,” a comfort with one’s comfortable position on planet Earth. For example:
When we die, what goes with us?
We leave behind our money, however much we line our coffins with it. Just ask the rich man in Luke 12:16-21, who used his bounty only to build new barns to house it, and was not “rich toward God.” So regardless of our earthly inheritance, we all die poor.
Our death is our own, and no one goes with us. So we all die alone.
Our clothed bodies remain behind to decay. “Is not…the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25 NKJV). We will die and leave our clothes behind. So we all die naked.
In addition, Scripture tells us that God “knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust” and that Adam was formed from the “dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7). These verses are a gentle, poetic reminder that all people, from Fortune 500 CEOs to the most wrung-out heroin addict in a soup kitchen, are made of dirt.
And there’s the sermon for today. We’re all made of dirt, and we’ll die poor, alone, and naked. “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!” (Psalm 100:1)
Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hangin’ there. In truth, none of these realities should oppress us. And that’s because the very God who so humbles us has also decreed that people are—despite being what Jesus, the ever-subtle Savior, called “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 2:17)—valuable.
Psalm 8 is unique among David’s songs and poems because it expresses not anger, sadness, or peace so much as an awe that God would bother to deal with people. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (v. 3-4). Some people have the wrong reaction to this wonder—they realize God’s majesty without his love, and therefore assume he is indifferent to them. In return, they let their hearts harden against him.
The Bible, though, reveals the full truth to a willing eye. At the same time Scripture states that the first man was made from “dust,” it says God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7). Humans are formed of the soil—literal elements indistinguishable from the kind found in dirt, such as carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen—yet we are important because no other being or object houses the breath of God. No other beings were chosen to reflect the likeness of God (1:26), however flawed that reflection may be.
Christianity gives us a delicious paradox. The more we behold God, the lowlier we seem by comparison; yet God himself, who loves us, whose word is higher than any other opinion, is exactly the force that makes us precious.
That’s what Christ meant when he urged us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33), and trust God to “add” all the layers of necessity to our life on earth: money, companionship, and clothing (poor, alone, and naked, remember?)
Only when we pass from life to higher life do these additions fall away, letting all of heaven see that we are rich, accompanied, and clothed in “a treasure…that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). That treasure is our grateful relationship with God. And “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (12:34).
Now you can make that shout I mentioned earlier.
Do you ever have trouble grasping God’s highness in our irreverent world? Or, conversely, has his majesty ever made you skittish about entering a relationship with him?
Anthony Otten has published stories in The Jabberwock Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Wind. He has been a finalist for the Hargrove Editors' Prize in Fiction. Still: The Journal has published an excerpt from his novel. He lives in Kentucky.
The Struggle to Stay Real as Writers and Humans
When People Stopped Being Interesting to Write About
How to Avoid God, Unsuccessfully
3 Ways to Use History in Your Fiction
Who's Afraid of Death?
Jesus and The "Illegals"
The Hardest Command
Grasping the Resurrection
The King of Outsiders
When Your Idol Falls
Our Not-Guilty Verdict
Nobody Dies for a Lie
Would You Be The Doorman?
What is a Blessing?
Real Obedience is Love
Jesus was Inevitable
The Death of Envy
What God Really Wants
Submission and Query Resources for Writers
Hearing His Voice
The World Overcome
Honestly, God: Praying Our True Feelings
When God Gives Us What We Want
Jesus's Emancipation Proclamation