Recently, my wife and I moved from Texas to California. Our final day in Texas was a crazy one as we scrambled to sell some of our possessions, give away many more, and take a bunch of junk to the dump. Then, after the movers finished emptying our house, we spent hours cleaning, getting everything ready for the new owners so they might move into a tidy, welcoming home. We didn’t leave until 10:45 p.m., having worked steadily from 7:00 a.m. By the time we finally arrived at our motel early the next morning, we were exhausted and more than ready to rest.
What is our purpose as human beings? Why did God make us? Why are we here on earth? These defining questions provoke philosophers and theologians to probe the depths of human significance. But, also, they stir within each of us in a personal way. What is my purpose as a human being? Why did God make me? Why am I here on earth?
My friend Paul worked hard for decades, achieving considerable success as a leader in education and business. Finally, Paul retired with the hope of enjoying the benefits of the “good life” he had earned through his considerable efforts. In particular, he looked forward to playing lots of golf. That’s exactly what Paul did. Soon he became a superior golfer, winning dozens of tournaments. But Paul was not happy in the way he had expected. Though he had ample time for golf and relaxation, he was not fulfilled. So Paul decided to go back to work, taking up real estate as a new profession. He wanted to get back to making a difference in the world beyond making birdies and accumulating golf trophies. He loved the idea of helping people find just the right house for their needs.
In my earlier reflection “Seeing All People in Light of God’s Image”, we saw how the biblical story of each person bearing God’s image stood out in a culture that tended to reserve this image only for people of exceptional power. We began to consider how the fact that all people are created in God’s image might shape our behavior and challenge our own cultural practices.
In the devotion “Astounding Likeness”, we began to consider the astounding truth that we are like God. God made human beings in God’s own image and likeness. Even though sin has tarnished that image, as we’ll see in Genesis 3, we still reflect and embody the divine image.
One of Max De Pree’s most frequently quoted lines comes from the opening pages of Leadership Is an Art: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader.” (p. 11).
“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.” If you’re not familiar with Max’s work, don’t worry. He’s not some New Age guru who thinks we can create our own reality by thinking happy thoughts. For Max, a faithful Christian, our ability as leaders to define reality is shaped and circumscribed by the ultimate definition of reality by God.
After finishing a major project, have you ever stood back, taken in what you have accomplished, and said to yourself, “That’s pretty good”? I’ll admit that I have on numerous occasions, especially after mowing the lawn.
Given how familiar I am with the creation narrative in Genesis 1, I find it hard to step back and see it with fresh eyes. Perhaps you can relate. But if I use my imagination, I can gain some perspective. I imagine, for example, how else God might have been introduced to us.
Psalm 12 begins with a dire description of a culture on the road to ruin: “[T]here is no longer anyone who is godly; the faithful have disappeared from humankind” (12:1). As he continues, the psalmist sees neighbors lying to each other and violence done to the helpless (12:2, 5). “On every side the wicked prowl, as vileness is exalted among humankind” (12:8). The bonds that hold society together are being severed as people lose the ability to determine right from wrong.
Sound familiar? Have you ever found yourself checking CNN online and thinking that the godly are disappearing and the faithful have vanished from the earth?
Psalm 11 explains God’s relationship to justice in terms of love. Verse 7 reads, “For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds.” This translation is possible, though it could also be rendered, “For the just LORD loves justice” or “For the righteous LORD loves righteous deeds.” The Hebrew uses the adjective tzaddiq in reference to the Lord and the plural noun tzedaqot to depict that which he loves. Even without knowing Hebrew, you can see the close relationship between these two words, which are based on the tz-d-q root.