“So don’t be impressed with those who get rich and pile up fame and fortune. They can’t take it with them; fame and fortune all get left behind. Just when they think they’ve arrived and folks praise them because they’ve made good, they enter the family burial plot where they’ll never see sunshine again. We aren’t immortal. We don’t last long. Like our dogs, we age and weaken. And die.” – Psalms 49:16-20 MSG
Sometimes we can really believe our own press clippings and think we are more significant than we really are. If we’re not careful, we can buy into the lie that we are the center of the universe and everything and everyone else revolves around us. We look at all the accomplishments and accoutrements we’ve built up in life and start to think we’re pretty hot stuff. But in these four Psalms, we see a different perspective. They reveal a recognition that it is God who is ultimately responsible for anything of significance that happens in our lives. The people of Israel didn’t possess the land of promise based on their skill with the bow and military strategy. In fact, the Psalmist said, “I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies, you disgrace those who hate us. I God, we give glory to you all day long, and constantly praise your name” (Psalms 44:6-8 NLT).
There is a certain sense in which we all need to come to grips with our own insignificance. Andrew Murray once wrote, “Humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all.” We can try and take credit for our accomplishments, but to do so is to rob God of glory. We are attempting to claim responsibility for things we had little or nothing to do with. Our pride gets in the way and tempts us to blow our own horn and wallow in our own sense of significance and self-worth. T.S. Eliot wrote, “Humility is the most difficult of all virtues to achieve; nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of oneself.” The Psalmist somewhat sarcastically paints the picture of the wealthy man who name their lands after themselves, out of some sense of self-exaltation – only to end up leaving those lands to someone else in the end.
Recognition of God’s worth and our own worthlessness is vital to the development of a healthy humility. To a certain degree, these Psalms are all about dependence – a reliance upon God and a recognition of our own helplessness. Our wealth, strength, intelligence, planning, even spiritual giftedness, are nothing without Him. If we can ever come to grips with God’s transcendence and our own impermanence, we will begin to recognize that we have nothing to fear. We’ll also discover we have nothing to brag about. Which should be great news, because there are going to be those days when our strength runs out, our wisdom falls short, our wealth drives up and our confidence in self grows weak. At those moments, if we recognize the power and pervasive presence of God in our lives, we will be able to say along with the Psalmist: “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again – my Savior and my God!” (Psalms 43:5 NLT).
Father, You are so much greater than I am. But I tend to want to think of myself as fairly significant. I want to elevate my own self-worth and claim responsibility for the affairs of my life. In other words, I want to be God. I want to be in control. I want to be the one to call all the shots. But thanks for the reminder that You are so much greater than I am. May I respond to Your greatness with humility – a growing awareness of Your holiness and my sinfulness. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men