Supreme Importance Without Swollen Heads

An insightful word from the British physician and brilliant essayist Theodore Dalrymple (a pseudonym):

No doubt the decline of religion accounts for the rise in self-obsession and self-importance that is everywhere observable. One of the great advantages of the Christian philosophy was that it managed to reconcile the unique importance of each man with humility. Every man was important in the eyes of God, and in that sense was at homes in the universe because the universe was expressly created for being such as he. His every action was known to God, and was therefore not without significance, however ordinary in other respects it might be; moreover, death itself was not without meaning, nor was it the end of his existence.

Yet, by comparison with the author of his being, he was infinitely small, as indeed was every other human being. However scholarly a man might be, God, being omniscient, was infinitely more knowledgeable; howsoever powerful a man might believe himself, it was finally God who disposed, so that all human power was both illusory and transitory. In the midst of life we are in death, the funeral service of the Church of England puts it; and it might have added, in the midst of importance we are insignificant.

I am not here concerned with whether this outlook is philosophically justified: with whether God exists, and if He does, with whether he is more interested in our doings and more solicitous of our welfare than He is with those of an ant, for example. All I am concerned to point out is that the religious outlook referred to above manages the difficult feat of assuring a man of his supreme importance without giving him a swollen head. (The New Vichy Syndrome, 63)

Sadly, I fear we Christians are quite adept at subverting our own biblical anthropology in favor of the same self-obsession bedeviling this age of social media. And yet, we have the resources at our disposal to embrace a happier way of life, by recalling what the Bible would have us not forget: in the midst of importance we are insignificant.