I sometimes hear Christians talking as though they were nothing and God is everything. Now, I understand what they mean, but the truth is: Man is more than a mere “nothing.” The Bible never says that he’s nothing. What the Bible says is that man is the image of God, and that he has a capacity to respond to God. He was made for God. Everywhere you go, even among the most degraded and primitive of men, you will find this pattern of the image of God. For one thing, you will rarely find a man, woman, boy, or girl without a passion for life, who doesn’t want to live, who isn’t in revolt against death and boredom and frustration and all the other negative qualities of life. They all want to seize hold of life. And rarely will you find a man, woman, boy or girl who doesn’t have a passion for dominion, who doesn’t want to succeed, who doesn’t want to reach out and try something new and accomplish new objectives, to conquer new territory. That’s because man is made in the image of God. But that’s not all. You will rarely find a human being who doesn’t have some power to create, to invent, some ability to produce or fashion or make or shape. This is inherent in the heart of man everywhere; no animal does that. Also men attempt to communicate, animals don’t. These are all part of the image of God which is widespread everywhere. That image is man’s greatest dignity.
But right along with this the Apostle Paul mentions the tragedy of man. “Being God’s offspring [which even your pagan poets recognize is true], we shouldn’t think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man.” Paul is saying that f it’s true that we are made with the capacity for God, if we know that we are made to contain and reflect God, then it isn’t only insulting to God to make an idol of him, but it is also degrading to man. It is saying that we can be satisfied with things that are less than ourselves, that we can find satisfaction in trinkets and beads and images made from “stuff,” in material values. Wherever people act on that basis you will always find them returning to childish actions, becoming childlike. Idolatry of any kind does this to man, degrades him, makes a man act like an infant. In Edwin Markham’s great poem, The Man with the Hoe, as he is thinking of man in his low estate, he asks the question,
Is this the thing the Lord God made, and gave
To have dominion over sea and land,
To trace the stars, and search the heavens for power
And feel the passion of eternity?
Even in that degraded estate, there is a recognizable capacity for God. The tragedy is that this capacity is being prostituted into something less than the God for which it was designed. That’s what moved Paul so strongly.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Story of Acts