“A Christian understanding of humanity places a strong emphasis on the image of God, and the essential dignity and grandeur that it confers to all people.
We are kings, priests, ambassadors, rulers, made for a little while lower than the angels and crowned with glory and honor (Ps. 8:5), and that has crucial implications for the way we treat one another.
But alongside that (vital) emphasis on dignity, there is also an appropriate humility that comes from remembering that “I . . . am but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27) and that “he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Ps. 103:14).
Knowing that we come from the ground keeps us grounded; the Latin word humus, which means “soil” or “earth,” gives us the words humility and human.
And there is such reassurance in knowing that God, in his compassion and fatherly kindness, sees us not only as princes, expected to rule the world, but also as dust and ashes, expected to fail sometimes and cry out for rescue.
As Hannah sang so beautifully, one of his favorite hobbies is lifting people from the dust and ashes—marginal, broken, poor, and needy people like her, and indeed like me—and seating us with the princes (1 Sam. 2:8). We are dust, and to dust we shall return.
We may find it liberating, unsettling, or terrifying, but it is true nonetheless: one day the cells that compose us will be swirling in the autumn leaves, wedged between sofa cushions, and hidden behind radiators. The same is true of all the world’s most powerful and influential people.
As with Ozymandias in Shelley’s famous poem, their apparently invincible empires will finally turn to dust. So will we. But only for a while.
Ultimately, as Daniel saw, “those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt” (Dan. 12:2). Dry bones in a death valley will be filled with divine breath and raised to life (Ezek. 37:1–12).
In Adam we are all dust people, and we decompose accordingly, but in Christ we then rise to become heavenly people for whom dust and decay, mortality and corruptibility, are things of the past.
Paul, describing the resurrection to people who couldn’t quite believe it, explains that “just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49).
Our future, Paul says, will be modeled not on the man who came out of the soil but on the man who came out of the tomb.
So get all your hoovering done now. The new creation will be dust free.”
–Andrew Wilson, God of All Things: Rediscovering the Sacred in an Everyday World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2021), 12-13.