Are you a human doing or a human being? Do you do, or do you be? Dobedobedobedo (not original). How much do you define yourself by who you are and what drives and motivates you, what your core principles and beliefs are OR by what you do, your deeds and how you treat others? I don’t think there is any contest between the two, that most would agree the inner man is more important than his external manifestation.
Usually when introduced, the first question asked of one is? ….yes, you got it: “So what do you do?” Of course it would be a little intense on first meeting somebody new to ask them to tell you all about their most private inner life. A bit inappropriate too. A relationship of trust built over time usually begins to reveal that. But I don’t think anybody believes that what they do is really all they are.
What does it mean to be?! That’s huge and I’m not going to explore the entire world of philosophy here. You’d fall asleep. However, no one can argue with the point that before you do, you are. And flowing from that, what you do is as a result of what you think is most important based on your world view, you ambitions and your likes. Your work is as a result of a complex set of you own choices combined with circumstances, which are often set in place by a further set of your own choices. Even when we feel we have no choice, that’s possibly as a result of an internal choice that prevents us from making a change. (Unless you are a child and have to do as you’re told).
Who are you really, on the inside? If you truly believe this is the most important part of you, do you pause ever to quietly reflect on what keeps you going? Who is this, ‘your being’ that enables your doing? Do you nourish that part? If the tree is well cared for, the fruit will be bountiful. And then what source do you draw upon for the nourishment? Is it good, pure, strong and all the things you’d like to pour into those fruit you’re hoping to bear?
Psalm 46:10 God says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
There is extraordinary power in that one small phrase. The very act of us doing nothing enables us to know God more. And those words are written within the context and as part of the conclusion to a Psalm that describes world wide calamity as well as personal fear. In those situations I’d be jumping up to make a plan – fix those problem, conquer my fears! The knowing of God is tied together with the knowledge of his power and his person. He will be exalted over all the earth. It places Him in the right place and ourselves within His context. When we become overwhelmed, it would be lovely to take time out from the real world, to tell everyone you can’t anymore, from now on you choose to Be Still. Well it is very important, we need to, in fact are commanded to. The fourth commandment exhorts us to rest, to take Sabbath. In between the working.
So if we believe that to be the case, that He exists and we do because of who we are in relation to Him then how do we go about the doing?
Genesis 2:4-9,15 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Sluggards take note: work isn’t bad! There is great encouragement knowing that as part of His perfect plans God created us to work, it gives us purpose and meaning to our day. Those who are unemployed suffer from high rates of depression and suicide, it is hard to find your sense of worth if you are feeling useless. Conversely work brings us great satisfaction. However there is more to work than our occupations. There is work and there are good works. We have plenty to do, unlike the animals we have the ability to help others less fortunate, to be compassionate and to follow through from our convictions into actions.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.
It’s all very well to have the greatest intentions but to never follow through on them. What hypocrisy to say you believe one thing and yet behave in a different way entirely! By doing so you expose yourself to be a fraud and what you do becomes meaningless.
James 2:14-26 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Workaholics take note : work isn’t always good! There are those who are slaves to their work, are unable to know when enough is enough. The problem is when we set the cart before the horse and expect what we do to describe who we are on the inside. We’d be bound for disappointment as we can never achieve the perfect standard or keep up with all the good things we’d like to do. We have to base our identity on something more permanent and worthy than our meager deeds.
This is the passage which I think perfectly ties both concepts of being and doing together:
Ephesians 2:1-10 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Your deeds are in response to what you believe, an external reflection of an inner reality. Did you notice though, that both the work you do as well as the faith you have are gifts from God? That’s why we have no reason to boast and every reason to be grateful. I believe we are made to be human Beings called to be human doings, created in the image of the great I AM who is and was and always will be. How awesome to consider we are God’s handiwork in Christ Jesus. That’s certainly some identity to be boastful about, to rest within and to be spurred on – into action.
(This article was written after a question raised by Michael in his blog 83unsungheroes.co.uk/2016/06/10/definition-of-self ,thanks Michael! It’s a concept I’ve been mulling over for a while so it was good to be motivated to get it down on ‘paper’).