Chapter 28 – What Men Live By

HUMAN LIFE HAS ITS CENTRAL CORE where lie the things men live by. These things are constant. They change not from age to age, but are the same among all races throughout the world always.

Life also has its marginal zones where lie the things that are relatively unimportant. These change from generation to generation and vary from people to people.

It is at the central core that men are one, and it is on the marginal zones that they differ from each other. Yet the marginal things divide the peoples of the world radically and seriously. Most of the enmities of the earth have arisen from differences that did not matter basically; but because the people could not distinguish things men live by from things they live with these enmities arose between them, and often led to persecutions, murders and bloody wars.

Were men everywhere to ignore the things that matter little or not at all and give serious attention to the few really important things, most of the walls that divide men would be thrown down at once and a world of endless sufferings ended.

What does matter after all? What are the great facts that are good all the time everywhere among all men? What are the axiomatic truths upon which all human life may rest with confidence? Fortunately they are not many. Here are the chief ones:

1. Only God is great. Men have sought to place greatness elsewhere, in things, in events, in men; but the human soul is too great to attribute greatness to itself, and certainly too great to believe that things or events can possess true greatness.

The greatness that men seem to have is as the greatness of moonlight, which is but the glory of the sun reflected. Man’s glory is borrowed. He shines in the light that never was on land or sea. He reflects God’s greatness but has none of his own.

“Before Thy ever-blazing throne We ask no luster of our own.”*

2. Only God is wise. Man’s wisdom has ever been the badge of his superiority and the cause of his most arrogant pride; yet it fails him constantly. He cannot by his wisdom find the answer to the old questions concerning himself: Whence? What? Why? Whither? By it he cannot secure the blessings he wants most: to escape pain, to stay young and to stay alive.

Yet man boasts of his wisdom, God waits, the ages pass, and time and space and matter and motion and life and death join to tell us that only God is wise.

3. Apart from God nothing matters. We think that health matters, that freedom matters, or knowledge or art or civilization. And but for one insistent word they would matter indeed. That word is eternity.

Grant that men possess perpetual being and the preciousness of every earthly treasure is gone instantly. God is to our eternal being what our heart is to our body. The lungs, the liver, the kidneys have value as they relate to the heart. Let the heart stop and the rest of the organs promptly collapse. Apart from God, what is money, fame, education, civilization? Exactly nothing at all, for men must leave all these things behind them and one by one go to eternity. Let God hide His face and nothing thereafter is worth the effort.

4. Only what we do in God will remain to us at last.

Man is made in the image of his Creator and has an urge toward creative activity. When he left the Garden his creative urge did not leave him. He must build, always build; his materials may be brick, paint, musical notes, scientific data, systems of thought; but always he must build, from the boy that builds a toy to the man that builds an empire.

Yet time is against him, for it wears out everything it touches. Its grinding action makes dust of civilizations and cities and men. A lifetime of toil dies with the toiler. But God puts immortality in all our loving efforts for Him and shares His eternity with all who love and trust Him.

5. Human sin is real. Suspicion, hate, envy, power, lust and greed keep the world in a state of continual ferment, while bespectacled men stand unblinking and assure classes of eager students that the whole idea of sin is outmoded and sin itself non-existent.

In spite of all our smooth talk sin continues to ride the race of man. Until its heavy weight is lifted from the soul nothing else has any right to our attention, for sin shuts us out from the presence of the God whose favor alone gives life any satisfactory reason for being.

6. With God there is forgiveness. “The Lord God, merciful and gracious . . . keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” So says the Old Testament. *”The Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins,” says the New.

God’s mercy heads up in the Man Christ Jesus who is God and man by the mystery of the Incarnation. He can and does forgive sin because the sin was committed against Him in the first place. The soul in Christ has found the One that matters. His heaviest problem is solved; his basic philosophy is sound; his eyes are open and he knows the true from the false.

7. Only what God protects is safe. All else perishes with the using or the hoarding. Paul knew this secret. He said, “He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”***

Blessed Treasure. Blessed Keeper. Blessed Day.

* Ex. 34:6 * * Matt. 9: 6 *** 2 Tim. 1:12