Numbers play an important role in many books of the Bible. What each means is significant for the overarching themes that connect them all. Each number has a unique meaning.
What I’ve found is a few numbers are repeated the most: 3, 6, 7, 8, 12, 40.
3 symbolizes perfection and completion. One can find it in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It’s also there in how long it took Abraham to travel in order to attempt sacrifice of his son Issac. Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for 3 days. Jesus took 3 days to resurrect after His death on the cross. There are many more examples, but they all point to resurrections of sorts or a type of completion of perfection.
6 symbolizes humanity. Mankind was created in 6 days and allowed to work 6 days before resting. Slaves were allowed to be kept 6 years before being given freedom. The numbers 666 in Revelations point to an evil beast where it notes implicitly that it is the number of a man. One can also see today that carbon, the makeup of all living beings, has an atomic number 666: 6 protons, 6 electrons, and 6 neutrons.
7 symbolizes spiritual perfection or even the end. There are 7 days in a week due to creation’s time span, 7 churches, 7 spirits, and 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is not to mention the 7 seals, 7 trumpets, and 7 bowls that announce the end of this heaven and earth as we know it.
8 symbolizes a new beginning. Other than the 8th day obviously being the first day of a new week, there are other examples. Newborns were to be circumcised on the 8th day, God saved 8 people from the Great Flood, and Jesus appeared 8 times after his resurrection. The New Testament has 8 authors. Jesus’ name in Greek adds up to 888.
12 symbolizes spiritual authority. There were 12 Israelite tribes, 12 judges, and 12 apostles. 12 loaves of unleavened bread needed to be presented in the temple each week. In Revelations, 12,000 of each tribe is sealed.
40 symbolizes trials. The Great Flood covered the earth 40 days and 40 nights. Moses lived 40 years away from his birth home after killing a man and was on Mount Sinai facing God for 40 days. The Israelites wandered the desert 40 years after betraying God. Jonah prophesied in Nineveh 40 days and Ezekiel slept on his right side 40 days in protest and fasting. Jesus walked the desert 40 days and 40 nights fasting before being confronted by Satan.
These are just some of the many numbers that connect stories in the Bible. The holy book is a unified whole, constantly referring back to past stories and songs. Numbers play an important role in all this.
Do you have any numbers that stand out in your own life?
The other day I was struck by an article I’d read about the varied and changing views on the afterlife that Jews have held through the ages. It’s not new for believers of the same faith to believe many different things. Even in ancient times, this was the case. In fact, rabbis made debate a sport in their temples. Amongst the “laymen,” there were even more disagreement as some were not believers (aka culturally Jewish only) and some were not educated in the Torah to any great extent. One person in the article stated that there’s a old saying about the many views they hold on death: two Jews, three after-lifes.
In this article, there were many views, and one had written that they felt ancient Jews believed dust-to-dust meant that we cease existence entirely, at which point God forgets us. I didn’t believe that, but it hurt me for some strange reason. I started to wonder about afterlife in the Bible. I worried on the subject all day (as I’m a worrier).
Finally, I did what I should’ve done from the beginning, and I spoke to God (I’m a slow learner sometimes). The Holy Spirit spoke to me immediately as if He were waiting all day for me to listen. He said do you believe I’m a good God? Did you believe me the many times I said you are my children and I’m your father and I love you as a father in the Bible? Then, would you believe I would ever forget one of my children even willingly? Do you think I would not grieve them and miss them? Do you think that I, an omnipotent father, would not bring them back to my arms once I’ve readied a Safe place for them? Wouldn’t you as a mother? Even humans who are not as good as I nor as perfectly loving would do this. How much more I?
“…and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” Ecclesiastes 12:7
“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and welcome you into My presence, so that you also may be where I am…” John 14:2
“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement…” Hebrews 9:27
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…” John 11:25
“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” John 5:28-29
If you worry that, even if you are saved, you may die to live in a gray formless void (like Hades), burn in torment, or even subsist in a boring eternity of harps and fluffy clouds, why would you think God wouldn’t know your deepest needs and desires? He made you, and He would know how to give you more than you ever could wish or imagine.
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” Luke 11:11
I was in church the other day listening to the band sing a soft Christian song, and I noticed the sun rays streaming in golden warmth from the windows up above us. It brought me to a memory with my mom, a few memories actually.
One was when I was small enough to be held on her lap, maybe two or three years old. She had soft music on as she rocked me in the rocking chair. She was brushing my hair back from my forehead, and I recall the smell of pine-sol from her recent mopping in the kitchen. She said “This will be a memory,” and it was. Another memory I have comes in two parts. In the first, I was young still and she would lay me down for a nap in her bed, and she’d nap too. I remember lying there and the sunlight coming in filtered softly through white curtains, and the world seeming so quiet around us except for her gentle breathing. In the second part, I was grown, and she had asked me for the last time to nap with her. I didn’t sleep. I just lie there beside her, listening to her breathing and watching the sun stretch across the room to touch us in the silence.
And I realized that there are so many sacred moments we experience in our lives. They all feel so… holy. They are a moment when God looks down at us and smiles. When the world is some peaceful sort of heaven, like it always should’ve been. I think we feel God’s face turning toward us in those moments, that’s that feeling you feel.
I’ve felt it when waking in the middle of the night to feed and rock my child when she was a small baby, just us and the stars. I’ve felt it when I run trails all alone with just the birds, the smell of fresh pine and soil, and the sound of my feet to keep me company. I’ve felt it in the stillness of a Sabbath morning when I’m sipping coffee and hearing the house wake up around me.
God is near. He’s in the stillness, the silence, the calm, the soft breezes and gentle sunshine.
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:11-13
Do you recall any sacred moments you’ve experienced?
I have a passion for the Bible. I’m not deluded enough to believe everyone feels the same as me. I mean, it’s an old book with old stories we can’t always relate to. It’s huge and unwieldy! It even has sections that are only full of genealogies or lists of materials for the tabernacle or numbers of people counted in a census for tribes. What about this dry, verbose material would be alluring to anyone?
Let me tell you. If you came to the Bible as if it were a piece of art or ancient literature, you would see an incomprehensibly complex masterpiece created over thousands of years. I know part of my fascination with this work is because I’m a literature major. I love books. So, the symbolism, the foreshadowing, the repeated themes to tell a story or moral are engrossing to me. Jesus must’ve loved it too, speaking in parables all the time. Add to it that it wasn’t just one author. It’s difficult enough to have one person write one work. The Bible is made of 66 books: History, laws, poetry/songs, accounts for census or accounts, genealogy records, letters, prophecies. Yet, they all come together with the same plot, the same themes, the same symbols, the same message of love.
Which brings me to this: If I could sum up the Bible, what would I say? In one word, of course it would be love. In a bit of a longer way, I would say that the Word starts with the story of humanity living in a state of absolute love and peace, getting kicked out of that utopia, and then not being able to return. However, over the course of the rest of the Bible, you’ll learn three things: Eden is not a place; it’s where ever God is. We were not kicked out of Eden; we walked ourselves out. God has been trying to convince us ever since we left to return back. I want you to reread those three things. What do I mean?
Eden is not a place. It never was. I’m not saying there wasn’t a physically separate area where Adam and Eve lived. T hat’s not the point. It wasn’t Eden because of where it was located. It was Eden because that’s where God and humanity walked together in the cool of the day.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…
We were not kicked out. Have you ever been told when younger that as long as you live under your parent’s roof, you live by their rules? God’s rules were simple: Don’t eat from the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. Really, it wasn’t even about the fruit. It was about following God’s rules. It was a fruit of death, and God was saving us from ourselves. His rules are all about love. We didn’t want that. We decided to disobey. We decided to leave God’s presence.
He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
God has been trying to convince us to return back to his presence since the moment we left it. What about that angel with a flaming sword, you may ask? Sweetheart, do you think if we wanted back in His love and grace and followed his rules that anything would keep us from Him? We couldn’t return to His loving presence as long as we lived in disobedience and darkness. The darkness doesn’t exist in the light. God is begging you to return to His loving arms (Lev 26: 11-12).
And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited.
These are the simple truths. The Bible is full of complicated truths and hard truths as well. If you read it expecting the main characters to be only perfect and holy people, you’re going to be surprised. Not a one of them were perfect until Jesus. In fact, they were all evil in varying ways and saved only by the love of God. That’s the point. If you read it expecting the “good people” in it like Moses, David, etc. to only speak to God with positivity and adoration, you’ll be surprised. Especially David, a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), wrote songs and poems about every emotion and situation he experienced. Sometimes, he poured out his anger to God.
O Lord, how long will you look on? Rescue my life from their ravages, my precious life from these lions. I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you.
Sometimes, he poured out his doubts.
“How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?”
God can take it. He already hears your heart’s lamentations and doubts before you open your mouth. He wants you to communicate and open up to Him in honesty and truth, even hard, painful truth.
I just wanted to speak with you today about my love for the Bible. It’s a love story about the growing, changing relationship between God and His people. I guess I could say I wanted to write a public love letter about THE public love letter known as the Word.
Leave me a message below if you have anything you love about the Bible.
First, before all, this applies to all of my posts: I don’t know your heart, but God does. He know your past and future actions. And guess what? He loves you anyway. If you were brought to a point in life this was a choice you’ve made, I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with that. I know it must’ve been a difficult decision. My heart goes out to you, love. Take this as a study of the Word, and bring it to God. He is full of compassion for you.
Recently, the Supreme Court here in the U.S. overturned the Roe vs Wade law that supported the right to legal abortions at a federal level. Now, the states are the ones who decide the perimeters, legalities, and definitions of abortions.
As with anything, we should not look to our political parties, friends, families, or even our feelings alone to determine our view of the world. What is abortion to God, and what does He feel on the subject?
“If people are fighting and hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
The above quote does indeed show an idea that there is a distinct separation of the life of the woman and that of the baby. However, it seems to only apply to others hurting the baby, not the woman herself. This verse is tucked in between verses concerning injuries or death done to slaves, which, in context, seems to look at the baby as property as it clearly views the slaves. Maybe we should see what it says about injury or death done to someone’s own slaves?
“When a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the slave is his money.”
Okay, so the fact of a baby being looked upon as essentially property doesn’t exclude punishment in case of the owner killing him or her.* However, it definitely seems more lenient, possibly to exclude situations where the owner intended severe injury and not death. It’s harsh either way.
Let’s look at an oft quoted verse about the punishment of an adulteress.
“The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water.He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her…he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children…”
If you’re like me, you’re thinking that this all sounds very… esoteric. It sounds like magic. I’m not sure what exactly is in this bitter water that would only kill a baby born of adultery, other than the hand of God. In other words, this death is not by man’s hand because the ingredients of this bitter concoction is water and dust. Since this was only done in situations when the adulteress was not caught and she did not confess, I personally wonder if this was usually an act done to clear the unsubstantiated jealousy of her husband.
There are several instances in the Bible where annihilation of a tribe or people in warfare may have been deemed ordered by God, and in many, the babies, even those in wombs, were not excluded in the deaths. These are actions only done by order of God, not based on a decision by humans, which would clearly be considered murder.
Read the Bible, pray to God, and see the answers God gives you for yourself. From my studies so far, it appears a few facts on abortion are illuminated by God’s Word. God hates death of any kind, but in some very necessary circumstances, it appears to be ordered by God for the good of the rest of humanity. Babies in the womb are property of the woman and her husband (if she’s married) and are not equal to the lives of their parents. However, they are still looked at as a separate life deemed worthy to be protected, with those who are harmful to them deserving of punishment (the parents themselves or others). In cases where the life of the woman carrying the baby is put in danger, it seems very clear to me God would support the termination of the baby to continue the life of the woman.
I won’t speak in light of rape cases of healthy adult women or incest as these seem case by case gray areas you should speak with God about, and I don’t know enough about those situations to feel comfortable settling on a verdict. I can’t find anything specifying abortion in those situations in the Bible, but if you have, please let me know for further study.
In any other case, it appears God would need to speak directly to you and order the death of your baby to make it an innocent act, and that can only be done with a drink of water and dust in a temple by a priest… so, take this how you will.
* I’ll be writing a post about slavery in a near-future post. Keep an eye out!
Hello there. It’s been over a year since I’ve written a post, but you, dear reader, have been weighing on my mind the whole time, believe me. I’ve felt a bit like I’ve failed us both. I have no idea if I ever succeeded in being a light on a hill for you or a sister speaking comfort in a world of darkness. However, if I have, as I hoped, I pray you forgive my silence.
My mother died. It’s even painful to write it. She had 4th stage cancer for two years, so I believe I’d been grieving for awhile before she actually left us. The crazy thing about grief, I’ve learned, is that it affects us in ways you can’t prepare for. When you heard from me last, I was in denial. Then, within weeks of her passing, I knew. It hit me when she spent only 15 mins out of bed to see us before returning to bed once again. I cried in the bathroom. Started having anxiety attacks every time I’d leave my parent’s house. Then, she died. I floated in a fog for awhile, but I suddenly handled everything weirdly well… I thought.
I love writing, but I haven’t written since last year in the midst of the anxiety and denial. I’ve tried and failed with different types of writing and then stopped trying. I can even do other types of creative projects like sketching, but words are blocked. It’s like trying to get water from the wrong side of a dammed river. I’ve heard of the stages of grief being sadness, anger, denial, bargaining, etc., but I’ve never heard of the stage of silence.
To write a post about grief from the perspective of God’s Word, I had to be selective in which verses to include because there are so very, very many. God has a lot to say about death and grief. I like a few in particular because it’s as much about the mourner as it is about the one we mourn.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.“
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
These verses are full of hope and comfort, not only for our present life, but hope that our loved ones never truly die if they lived in God. There’s so many of Yahweh’s people who grieved in the Bible, as well: Job, David, Naomi, even Jesus, who has the shortest sentence in the Bible devoted to the mourning of His friend.*
Really, that’s the one that means the most to me. We’re not alone in our grief. There is no one in the universe who loves you and your loved ones more than God. He hates death. He hates that your loved one died. He hates that you are in pain. Yes, God hates. He hates evil, and evil brought death into our world, but he’s got a plan.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
So, if you’re grieving, like I am, hold onto the knowledge that your loved one is simply on a new adventure, one by God’s side, one without the pain and heartache we experience here. Make new memories and adventures to perhaps tell them about when you see them one day. Have faith the size of a mustard seed, and go forward in life with confidence in this truth. Grief is an amorphous creature that takes many shapes, but trust that God knows it well. You can’t and shouldn’t try to handle it alone.
I’ve successfully written this, so maybe this dammed river will flow again soon. God bless.
*I have a whole post dedicated to why God would cry over a death if He knew He’d resurrect him soon.Read Here
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”
Okay, I think this may be a topic that can feel overdone sometimes. God is love, He loved us so much, He sent His only begotten son to die for our sins, and so on. But, please, for the sake of the world He died for, give me a moment.
The world today is torn apart, and everyday, it divides further and further. Consider the way definitions cause us to place ourselves into smaller and smaller boxes. White and black. Girl and boy. Liberal and Conservative. Pro-life and Pro-Choice. Millennial and boomer. Heterosexual and Homosexual. They’re endless. Definitions can be helpful in many ways. However, increasing numbers of people cut off those who disagree with them on the proper definitions or those with different definitions for themselves, effectively shutting themselves in echo chambers where they’re always right and outsiders are always wrong. I don’t mean just casually right and wrong like you got the answer wrong on a test. I mean Good and Evil.
That’s right. People are, like never before, calling the shots of what is Good and Evil. Entire new “religions” are being formed, named by political affiliation, ostracism certain if you use the wrong words, like calling certain people women instead of “people with ovaries.” Others jumping ship from one social media to another where people will agree more with their approval of certain leaders or their conspiracy theories.
Whether you wear a mask in public or not, here’s a thought: Who are Christians not? Since we’re focusing so much on definitions, we can’t lose focus on the main purpose of our life here and what GOD defines us to be… and what He defines us to not be.
Well, while fellowship with believers is central to remaining focused and seeking support in life, we’re not called to STAY around only believers. We’re not called to shoot down those who stray from our personal opinions. We’re not called to ostracize people who disagree from our definitions and sense of what is right or wrong. We’re not called to hate those who hate us so much.
As children of God, we are called to shine on a hill and spread our light out into the darkness so those lost in the darkness and confusion of the world can find their way to the source of all good and right. You can’t force an unbeliever to understand God’s right and wrong. You CAN be an example of right. You can SHOW them something no one else is doing: You can love your enemies.
It’s not easy, but it’s what the world needs more of, now more than ever.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8
There are shadows in the world today, appearing and disappearing, flitting from here to there. They can be hard to grasp or understand, but their darkness has poured onto every street and home. Yet, it seems, the light of the God burns brighter for it.
One shadow is disease and death.
During the Black Plague, people would allegedly see a figure standing at the edges of towns: a dark, hooded cloak, a sickle in hand. Just after, the town would be overrun with the disease, wiping out so many, coffins and bodies would line the street because they were unable to bury them fast enough. This is where many believe the Grim Reaper image originated (Brittanica).
We are faced with a worldwide pandemic. Whether you believe it’s a real issue or not, the world is being chased down by physical death on all sides. It summons fear, and fear can summon strange behaviors in its desperation for survival.
One shadow is confusion and chaos.
“It hurt itself in its confusion!” This message in the Pokemon game appears when a pokemon, magically confused, hurts itself instead of the enemy as intended. This is exactly what evil wants: for us to be confused, hurt ourselves and our unity, and be so divided that it doesn’t have to do a thing to bring us down. There so many Bible verses about avoiding division, it would take an entire post to deal with it (maybe I should). Here’s one:
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
Is it ok to disagree, to be passionate in a cause that we may disagree in, or protest wrongs? Of course! Jesus did so in many ways, but notably, when He chased merchants from His temple with a hand-made whip. However, watch for when others push you to turn against others. It’s a typical tactic for abusers and manipulators, as when you’re apart, you’re more likely to be persuaded.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
So, here is the point of today’s post: there are many hidden powers in the world, and they’re spoken about in the Bible in many ways. They’re ancient and cunning, and they use the powerful and weak alike in their need for domination. Jesus already died on the cross; He already took away our chains to those powers. You are responsible for continuing to follow God and using His light to see through and clear out the shadows as you cross them. Speak God’s truth, live it, and don’t build your foundations on the worldly confusion and fear that is like quicksand.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them… One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.
I’ve been learning more and more about how to read the Bible and follow the Holy Spirit. Most days, I don’t believe I do too well. The fact is, however, the Bible, as much as we wish it were, isn’t a full, comprehensive list of rules that we just read and then do in our lives. It would be so easy and straight forward that way, right?
So also, when we were children, we were enslaved under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive our adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, you are also an heir through God.
Servants simply need to be told something, with no additional whys or hows, and they should do it. Now, there are circumstances where we don’t know why or how, exactly. However, we are God’s children and Jesus’ brothers and sisters. This is a completely different relationship. We are encouraged to ask questions!
The Bible introduces basic, core principles that guide God and then shows you the various personalities, cultures, and time periods, and how followers of God used the holy spirit to successfully and unsuccessfully follow those principles. The fact is, we have to work for this. This isn’t a Simon Says game. It’s not knowledge of right and wrong that God wants from us. It’s following, as best as we can, His wisdom and Holy Spirit while constantly staying in touch with and developing a relationship with Him. We are essentially, perpetual students, learning how to use God’s words in the context of our lives and circumstances.
When you read about how Paul states that women should cover their heads while in temple or men are more honorable with short hair (1 Cor 11), he was writing to specific churches in a specific time and culture where the circumstances called for this specific direction. Every person in the Bible, from Adam and Eve to the original founders of the Christian churches spreading throughout the post-Jesus world, were trying (or not trying) to follow the Holy Spirit and God’s principles in their unique situations. Just as you need to know the rules of writing before you can write a work or the methods of music before you create a piece, we need to know His voice so we know how to follow Him in differing circumstances and improvise based on His wisdom.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
What has the Holy Spirit taught you? How has it ingrained God’s love into your heart and life?
Your intrinsic value as a human being is not determined by what others think of you: true or false? Your answer depends on what part of the world you live in, what culture you were raised among, and even your religion. However, if you have TV or internet access, you are probably aware of the concept of “self-esteem.” Christianity disagrees with both, and this revolutionary idea of not caring what anyone thinks of you was part of what got Jesus, and many of His followers, killed.
At least in the United States, the pendulum has swung, at least slightly, from one extreme to another. The fear of ostracism still exists in many forms here and around the world, but in American culture, individualism, self-esteem, and “following your heart” are pervasive values, which can carry its own set of issues. We can be, however, conflicted with those “values” and hypocritical when we hold people to their latest mistakes and look at others as incapable of heart changes, especially as Christians.
In the ancient world that Jesus was birthed into, most cultures and Rome had a culture based on honor and shame. Your value as a person was thought to be highly dependment on what the world thought of you. Therefore, you held tight to traditional ways of life and walked the fine line of public approval if you cared at all about you and your family’s life and livelihood. When Jesus publicly renounced rabbis’ beliefs and sat among the dirty sinners, He did a massive taboo, a bigger taboo than we (as modern thinkers) might think upon first reading: He didn’t care about the public’s opinion, and He asked for others to be the same.
Neither basing our worth on others’ opinions NOR OUR OWN OPINION about ourselves are healthy or God’s way. As children of Yahweh, we should base our intrinsic value on God’s view of us. So, how does God view us? We were created as imagers, God’s representatives on Earth. He puts His Holy Spirit inside each of us who allows Him, as we are His personal temples and priests. If that’s not overwhelming and amazing, you’re not listening. We are intended to be breath-takingly awesome. That is our worth. It’s infinitely more honor than anything in this world could give us. Remember this verse:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11: 28-30
The world’s opinion, and our own, can be a heavy load that we must carry through life. It is also an ever-changing, never satisfied master. Let’s not live our lives according to the court of public popularity nor our own self-esteem. Rather, let’s face our God like sunflowers to the sun and live up to what He created us to be, basking in the warmth of His love.
Sources other than the Bible: You can check out Episode 204 of the Bible Project Podcast: Honor-Shame Culture and the Gospel, which inspired this post.