Someone once asked me what I hear in my head in the dark moments of life, in those times when I get down. What I hear is often, “you’re just not good enough, you are inadequate, and you just don’t matter when it comes right down to it.” I know I’m not the first or only person to feel that way.
One of the deadly sins we all have to be concerned about is pride. As the famous proverb goes, “Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18 KJV). I’ve experienced the pitfalls of pride, thinking too much of myself, in more ways than one. Nevertheless, an equally present danger is thinking too little of ourselves. We are not gods, but neither are we meaningless scum. Sloth is also a deadly sin, and part of the problem with sloth is that we can think too little of ourselves. We can think we and anything we can do for the good of others doesn’t really matter. Sloth is also associated with laziness, but it could be low self-esteem that actually inhibits truly humble godly activity.
Sometimes we can get frustrated and experience deep emotional pain when we feel like we and our abilities don’t really matter. This may come from ungodly and cruel criticism from others. Someone may ridicule and mock us when we try to contribute our talents to a cause. This happens in a variety of different settings, sadly, churches included.
At other times it may be self-criticism and feelings of inadequacy when we begin to compare ourselves to others. We may see the exceptional talent of others in certain categories that bring them more attention and feel bad that we don’t have those talents and the attention they seem to draw. We may make the mistake of thinking our gifts matter less to God and the overall good of the body of Christ because they seem to matter less to people. The truth is often those who receive the most acclaim among men, will experience the most shame at the judgment throne of God.
Encouragingly, the Bible tells us in terms of differently gifted people in the body of Christ, “the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable, we bestow the greater honor ..” (1 Cor. 12:22-23 ESV). Every member is important, and we need to encourage each other and honor each other accordingly.
Yet it’s easy for any of us, even some of the most talented, to think that we don’t really matter. Sometimes it may just be a simple matter of making the mistake of thinking that because we are so small in the whole scheme of the universe we don’t really matter. You don’t have to get too high above the earth to sense just how small we really are.
Psalm 8 indicates that David certainly felt insignificant in light of the vastness of God’s creation when he wrote:
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” Psalm 8:3-4
Yet in spite of how he felt so insignificant in the whole scheme of things, he went on to express faith in what is revealed about humanity in God’s word in Genesis 1-2.
“Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.” Psalm 8:5-8
The Bible tells us not only that we matter to God, but we also matter to the whole of creation. On the one hand it’s hard to believe, but on the other, when we think about how minor changes in ecosystems can make a big difference, we can begin to appreciate more our place in God’s good creation. There’s this video that shows what happened when they reintroduced wolves back into Yellowstone. It not only changed the wildlife, it also changed the plant-life and even the landscape.
The Bible is telling us that human sin and rebellion against the Creator not only negatively affects human social systems, but also the earth and the rest of creation. Genesis 3 tells us that curse not only adversely affects our relationship with God and other people, but also the earth. In Romans 8 Paul reminds us that the creation itself longs for humanity’s final liberation from sin. Salvation is not just about going to heaven when we die – I believe we do; it’ s ultimately about the renewal and liberation of all of creation from the destructive forces of sin and death at work in and through fallen humanity. When humanity is completely delivered from sin and renewed perfectly again in the image of God in which we were created, “the creation itself will also be set free from its bondage to corruption” (Rom. 8:21).
Our place in the whole scheme of things matters, collectively and individually. All of us in some ways have been and are still part of the problem, but by the grace of God through faith in Christ we can also be part of the solution. God’s love encompasses everyone, therefore he does not desire “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And each one of us, with the gifts, talents, and abilities God has given us, matter to God, to the church, and to the world.
Let’s certainly not think too much of ourselves, but neither let us think too little. May we use our gifts wherever we are to build up the body of Christ in love and watch God transform the world as we ourselves are being transformed.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” ~ Rick Warren