God is infinitely greater than the greatest human accomplishment. What is the height of man’s life on earth? Inventing technology, landing on the moon, or winning wars? What is the best thing a human being, or a group of human beings, have ever done? Whatever it is, it is like a speck of light dust on the scale when compared to even Jesus being born. The greatest human accomplishments do not even register in comparison to God’s smallest acts. If we put humans on Mars, it is nothing compared to putting God in a Human. Nothing! The former is a mere change of location, but the latter is a change of eternal destiny. The distance of space travel is counted in miles, but the distance between God and man is measured in infinity.
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Romans 11:33)
Human accomplishments never impress God. Our strivings are but needles in the endless haystack of His greatness. The Mona Lisa is but a child’s jumbled finger-painting, or worse, compared to God’s sunsets, which renew each day in greater and greater beauty. Though, in His infinite goodness, he delights in what we do. Like a father proudly displaying his children’s finger-paintings next to his most prominent awards.
So, then, “who is the greatest” in God’s kingdom? “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:1, 4). Children know their accomplishments are but trifles. They know that their little dances, drawings, and delights are not to be compared with the abilities of their parents. The delight of the parent is not in the worth of the product the child produces, but in the child herself.
Yet, when we grow older, we begin to think the opposite. Years and decades in a cold world condition us to embrace works-theology. We see the correlation between good work and the praise of men, and we intuitively conclude that the delight of our Father is in what we do, rather than who we are. This is like a child thinking that his finger painting is better than the Mona Lisa – better than the sunset itself.
But what about the great men of God? Was not God impressed with Spurgeon’s sermons or Saint Thomas Aquinas’ massive theological writings? Take the latter for instance – Aquinas’ Summa Theologica has been called the most significant theological work since Augustine, if not the Bible, and “one of the most influential works of Western literature” (James Ross, Ph.D.). Though it was finished in 1274 AD, it is still used to train students of theology today. It’s one of the most, if not the most, famous Christian books of all time.
Allegedly, however, Aquinas one day had a vision of God while writing it. And he never finished it. Why? In his words, “Such things have been revealed to me that all I have written seems as so much straw.” He likened the greatest theological work in history – his magnum opus, his greatest work – to straw.
Why, then, do we strive so? Do we think we will outdo Aquinas? Perhaps someone today will (though it is not likely). What then? A little more straw? Human efforts are by definition infinitely less glorious than God’s. What will we gain by working so hard at what we work at? Who are we trying to impress? If God is not impressed with our finger-paintings, why stress so much about their colors? The little details of our lives preoccupy us like piranha’s during a swim, constantly swirling and attacking. We devote so much attention to putting them in order, and avoiding their lashes. But, why? If the greatest human works are but straw compared to God, what are these little details if not simply infinitesimal by comparison? It’s often said, amongst atheists as well as Christians, that no man will say on his death bed, “I wish I spent a little more time in the office, setting straight those accounts that went awry.”
Yet here we are, concerned about our image. We want to present ourselves to the real world and the digital world with our best foot, or best picture forward. We stand in front of the closet and the mirror as if we could conjure beauty from what see. We scroll through pictures of ourselves and read the words we’ve written as if they are pictures and words of Christ. Our focus is razor-sharp when it comes to the 140 characters we sent out to the world. But when the only One who was sent into the world says “become like children,” we forget. “Have I read that somewhere?”
“And Jesus wept.”
Rejoice, Christian. Your value is not in what you do, or how you look. Your value is in what God has done in you. Period. Your beautiful clothes, that shimmer like the sun, are the clothes of Christ – and they aren’t in your closet. Your friends can’t see them on Instagram, and they aren’t listed on your resume. So what if the world, then, sees your best efforts as nothing more than child’s play? They’re right, aren’t they? That dress really is ugly, and that meeting was truly a disaster when compared to God’s beauty and perfection. The thing the world has wrong, however, is thinking that some things aren’t disasters. The world is a disaster – this isn’t pessimism, it’s realism. The Mona Lisa will become dust like the woman who inspired it. All men must die, along with their accomplishments. A Jewish proverb says that people come into the world with clenched fists, because they want to take all they can. But when they die their palms are opened, because they can keep none of it.
Therefore, the only logical approach to life is to enjoy God in it. Only His accomplishments truly matter, for only they last. Only His beauty is true, and it is objectively so. Only His approval is worth seeking, and it has been lavished upon those whom He loves in Christ. Really, what I am trying to say, is that ultimately, only Christ matters. It is for Him that we strive, ceaselessly. Because He is so beautiful.
“It is the music with which the bells of heaven ring; a song in a word; an ocean for comprehension, although a drop for brevity; a matchless oratorio in two syllables; a gathering up of the hallelujahs of eternity in five letters.”
The Name of Jesus