What gives life meaning? What determines value?
We live in a world where value and meaning are often dependent on who you are and what you’ve done. Education level, job status, size of house, clothes that we wear…all are ways of trying to determine meaning and value. “I’m valuable” one might say, “because I’ve accomplished…” It is a never ending cycle of trying to keep up with others or trying to impress our neighbors, or simply trying to make our lives feel meaningful, and no matter how much we try to admit that it doesn’t matter, we keep drinking from the same spring over and over again. Meanwhile we spend money that we don’t have trying to earn things that we don’t need so that someone, somewhere will consider us worthy, will consider us valuable. “If I can just get one more promotion.” “If I can just move into this neighborhood.” “If my income can just reach this level.” When will it ever end.
And then I open the pages of scripture and in the very first chapter of Genesis everything that I believed to be true comes crashing down around me. I am in the middle of an earthquake with towers of pride and arrogance and perception come falling down all around me. And what has brought these once important towers to their knees? The voice of the Creator who gathers all the inhabitants of Heaven around him and says, “Let us make Humanity in Our Image.” (Genesis 1:27) It is a phrase that we’ve heard so many times that it’s easy to miss the full weight of what is being said. Humanity in the image of God. It’s more than just we look like God or resemble God in some physical way. Instead it is the Creator singling out Humanity from all of the other created things and declaring for all to hear “These are my image bearers. These are the ones who stand in my place.”
There was a practice in the Ancient Near East in which Kings would conquer an enemy kingdom and then erect a statue or an image of themselves in the conquered land. This statue represented the new King who although not physically present was present through the image. It was more than just a symbol, this image stood in the place of the King. God says that we are his image. And even though he is present on this earth, because he is God and he is everywhere, in some sense we are his representatives, we are his image bearers to the world. We stand in the place of God and represent him to his creation. Thus we are given the command to have dominion over the earth, to rule the earth. Not in some power hungry sort of way, but the same way God would rule, to love and care for and nurture what God has made. To help it reach it’s full potential.
I am made in the image of God. We are made in the image of God. And that truth changes everything. No longer is my value or my worth based on the things that I do. I have value because I was made. I am important because I represent God. Gone are the days when I must climb the corporate ladder for success, when I must mortgage off the future to live in the right neighborhood, when I must go back to school to add more letters to the end of my title or name. Gone are the days when I must work longer hours to have more things to build up a false sense of worth. Gone are the days when my self-esteem is based on others’ perceptions of who I am and what I must do. I am made in the image of God and nothing can ever change that. I am made in the image of God and nothing can give that more worth. I am made in the image of God, and that makes me special.
Oh, how life will change when I believe that truth.