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Mattering matters.


The "human element" is an admixture of physical, emotional, and spiritual components. One is the need of need, that is, giving and receiving need. Mattering matters. Every single human needs to be needed by something or someone, and lest we become like The Dead Sea, outlets to stream need to others. In many instances this need overpowers the other compounds so central to person-hood---values, ambition, goals and aspirations, service, relationships, careers, and right on down the line. And, it's diversionary, this need. What Pastor Andy Stanley said is so on point---"Our fear of not mattering much has the potential to draw us away from what matters most". Much of life is invested in the mattering category, making a difference with our lives, having a purpose and mission, being passionate and appreciated. Most of us want to matter.

It was a sub-text of much of what Jesus taught, this need to be needed, the matter of mattering. He critiqued Jewish traditionalism because so many of the highly placed Jewish leaders practiced their orthodoxy to be seen by men, to matter to those under their charge and then perhaps to God (see Luke 20:46). When his disciples argued about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, that is, to matter most in the unfolding kingdom Jesus was introducing, he taught them about having the heart of a servant or of a child (see Matthew 20:26; 20:11; 18:3). He befriended a woman of the night, spoke to the woman at the well, and defied many of the other conventions of the times to make the point that people always matter to God. In one brilliant teaching Jesus told the disciples that the Father valued them more than the sparrows (see Matthew 10:31). In fact, he reminded them that "even the hairs on your head are all numbered" (Matthew 10:30). That they were known and valued by God was a lesson that he taught them on many occasions.

And, that's the rub for many humans. Being important to God, mattering to the Creator of the universe has typically not been sufficient to cover this need to be needed, our mattering to God. As a result, history is a record of our attempts to make a difference to other humans, to stand out in a crowd, to leave a legacy of a life well lived, to receive the acclaim of others afflicted with "the human element". To know that we are loved with an ever-lasting love, that God knows and cares for us, and sent his one and only Son to redeem us, so often doesn't provide the sense of being needed that is such a significant part of the human equation. The Apostle John wrote about this need too---

Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the

Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the

synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory

that comes from God.

John 12:42-43, ESV

The Apostle Paul wrote to the early churches about it too. This need to be needed had evidently been a central theme in the preaching of many of the early church preachers. Paul wrote---

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please

man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Galatians 1:10, ESV

For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for

greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or

from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 2:5-6, ESV

So, today, fearful of being lost in the crowd, of not mattering, we are the culture of fake news, political drama, protests, snowflakes, and so many other components of this "human element" need to be needed. At the root of much of what we're seeing on the front pages and in the media today is the outcome of this need to be needed, or need to be important, or need to matter, what they're calling FOMO (fear of mission out) that governs social media and personal interaction.

Every year I read J.I. Packer's Knowing God (Intervarsity Press, 1973). One sentence is marked and remarked in my worn edition, bought when I entered seminary in 1979. This sentence settles the matter of mattering for me. Packer wrote---

What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but

the larger fact which underlies it — the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the

palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind.

It means being lost in the vast expanse of twenty-first century humanity is of little consequence. Mattering to humans matters. But, mattering to God is what matters most. And, as Andy Stanley stated, I can't let the fear of mattering much to humans make neglect what matters most, that is, mattering to God.


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