Mere Immortals | Your Weight in Heavenly Treasure
Of all the good and beautiful things that we regularly take for granted, foremost among them is each other. It has been said, “familiarity breeds contempt.” This could not be more true than with closest relationships.
How often do we snap sharply at those close to us, and afford social graces to strangers? How impatient are we with one another in general? This all flows from a general contempt of others.
What is contempt?
Contempt is a minimizing, a degradation or devaluation of another human being. It is to treat them with less dignity than they deserve—less dignity than who they really are.
Contempt looks judgingly down its nose at another person, and most often, in a way that makes the person judging feel better about themselves.
The Weakness of our Strengths
Whether we realize it or not, we pass judgment, and yes, therefore pass contempt upon other people based upon our own strengths. We never judge others by what we do poorly, but by what we feel we do better. The areas where we are weak and less than excellent are precisely the character traits we downplay—the things we shrug off as unimportant. We instinctively create in our head a pecking order of character traits that, ironically enough, have all our best character traits at the top, and our weaknesses as the bottom.
This, of course, sets us up to have contempt for others who have precisely the opposite strengths. A naturally organized or detail-oriented person can be naturally predisposed to pass judgment on those who are not similarly gifted. Oh and vice-versa.
C.S. Lewis wisely quipped that there is no person that we face or interact with, who is not a glorious and immortal being. God did not make us for contempt, but for glory.
Genesis chapter 2 tells us that humankind was created in the image of God. We were created by, in, and for the ultimate glory of God. The glory of God is on us; the glory of God is in us, and the glory of God is our ultimate destiny. When we make light of a person, we make light of a glorious, eternal, and immortal being; more seriously, we ultimately make light of God himself. Glory is God’s destiny for us—if we in fact choose that! But any way you want to slice it, all humans were made for that end.
We need to understand what human dignity truly is. Perhaps the growing social and political awareness of human dignity is one of the gifts of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. This, of course, stems from the conversation on “human rights.” For all her warts, the human’s “inalienable rights” is very much the child of this country, the United States of America. When we speak of human rights, we speak of human dignity, the right to be treated according to some moral standard for no other reason than the simple fact that she, he, or we are human.
Our dignity, however, is inseparable from our connection with God, from being created in his image. Humanity is much more than just this person, or that person. Humanity extends to the whole race, and all that involves its dignified treatment. So environment, justice, rights, and all things that either promote or threaten human flourishing, are the subject matter of human dignity.
The grand hiccup in all human rights discussion is the failure to see that the honor of human dignity must extend far beyond the self-aware adolescent or adult. Human dignity extends to the very potential to create more humans in the image of God. It is immoral to pump chemicals into the water supply that could cause birth defects ultimately thwarting human flourishing, it is equally immoral to pump saline solution into a womb for convenience. The violation of human dignity in the womb is the grand hypocrisy that not even the worst religion can outdo.
We are, and yes, you are a heavenly treasure. God made you and I for more—so much more than we normally see or hear. As we struggle through this mundane, sometimes sweaty, and often quite unglamorous life, we must ever bear in mind that we were made for more. And that is what the Gospel of Christ promises to weak human beings—a grand future and a grand eternity. Of this Gospel, which means “Good News,” the Apostle Paul says this:
2Cor. 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
Yes, we now live in humble, “earthen vessels” as the King James version reads. But we were made for glory. This is precisely what the Gospel is putting back at the center—the love of God, and the power of God. The Gospel is then most manifest, not in the power to judge, but in the power to have grace, patience, and enduring encouragement with one another. That is how a people of heavenly treasure are to be.