Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible
Luke 9:28-36; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Psalm 144:1-8; 2 Chronicles 31-32
Assuming this psalm is written by King David, he begins by praising God. The language is similar to that in Psalms 8 and 18, where David sees God as his rock and fortress, his source of security. In addition, God has trained David to be a warrior and granted him success. At the same time, God is loving, or as some translations put it, his help never fails. God is a source of solid security and steadfast love.
Some might look at all they have been given and start to think about how great they are. Not David. He is humbled as he reflects on God’s greatness and realises he deserves nothing. This leads him to wonder why God cares for humans at all, or even thinks about them. The Hebrew verb for ‘care’ covers both the internal concern and taking action to help. The word for ‘thinking’ includes compassion and purposefulness. God both remembers people and moves towards them. God’s heart and mind lead him to reach out to take care of humans, in spite of how insignificant we are in comparison to God.
We humans are like a breath, a vapour that may be seen on a cold morning, but quickly disappears. Our days are but a shadow that passes quickly. Yet God cares for us and rescues us. No explanation is given for this, except that it comes from God’s heart and mind. We have not earned it, nor do we deserve it. We accept it with humble gratitude, and reach out to God in prayerful dependence. We ask God to reach down from on high and help because of how great he is, not because of any value we might have (v. 7). Yet since he cares for us, we have great value.
There is a movement under way called posthumanism which denies any sort of privileged position or status to humans. They claim that humans have no more value than any other species. They reject the biblical view that humans are made in the image of God, and the secular idea that humans have inherent dignity. Such views, they claim, have led humans to arrogantly exploit other humans and everything else on the planet. Posthumanists are correct in pointing out that humans have done much damage because of pride and arrogance. But a proper understanding of being made in the image of God does not lead to such actions. Psalm 144 and related biblical passages demonstrate that the special attention and unique status given to humans by God was to lead to love, mercy and justice, not arrogance.
For example, reflecting on this psalm should lead us to realise that all humans are on an equal footing before God. None of us deserve the way God cares for or treats us. We all fall far short of God’s glory. Yet the way God thinks about and cares for me is how he relates to all other humans. Who am I to think less of any other person than I do of myself? As C. S. Lewis said in The Weight of Glory, ‘There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal… But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.’ Seeing our own value in the eyes of God should leave us unwilling to view any other human as any less valuable. Understanding our standing before God gives us the basis to treat all others equally and ethically.