Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he? Isaiah 3:221
This is profound advice for our times. Sooner or later breath ceases and the mortal life of a man ceases. Regardless of his place in life, his deeds, his power, and his influence. Every person comes to an end. It is inevitable.
A Christian is to view the world through a higher vision. He is called to surpass the lowly, constrained, and corrupt view that so easily engulfs our race. We, as a race, begin to think that somehow we are really in control; somehow we are masters of events. Yet we are not. Ultimately God is. Sure, sometimes He allows humanity to run out on the leash a bit, yet because He allows us the freedom to pursue our own destruction does not mean that destruction will win the day. Most of the time the process is not pleasant, and people suffer because of it. Humanity suffers because of its pride. It suffers because it desires to play God. In the long run humanity, without the true God, becomes only the god of chaos.
The Scriptures remind us – don’t worry because every person will die. God holds every person’s life in His hands. Even the so-called “movers and shakers,” the powerful of this world, are only like fading grass. They will give an answer for everything that they do, as will you and I.
Despite all the machinations of mankind, all things will experience ultimate recapitulation in Christ. The process has been set in motion. Nothing can stop it. St. John the Theologian proclaims to us the voices in heaven that cry, “The kingdom of the world did become that of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign unto the ages of ages” (Rev. 11:15). Elsewhere the psalmist David proclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s the world and all that dwell therein” (Ps. 23:1). Fallen humanity may seem to temporally have “control” but the ultimate reality cannot be escaped: humanity is mortal and dying, only God is from everlasting to everlasting. All of creation is His, He made it; He will care for it and bring it through all the chaos of fallen humanity and sin back to its proper state.
The Lord Himself proclaims, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Lk. 12:32); not the passing kingdoms of this world for which dying mortals vie, but the eternal kingdom which is found in Jesus Christ the Lord. It is tumultuous even for Christians to live in this mortal world, thus the Lord instructs, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Lk. 12:34). Don’t set your heart and hopes on men or on the kingdoms of this fading age.
Sadly, many people have their hearts fully invested in this world. Thus when it shakes and trembles everything they have shakes and trembles with it. All of this is but the tremor of the inevitable collapse of this mortal world. As long as we have breath we should strive for what is good and true. The knowledge of the final end in Christ is not some sort of escapism. Rather, it is the most blatant coming to terms with reality. Indeed, it is the mortal world that lives in a constant “escapism.” It persistently attempts to circumvent the end goal of absolute fulfillment in God. This is the root of all the tumult in our world.
St. Sebastian skillfully reminds true seekers of truth, “This life is transient; it is so unstable and unfaithful that it can never save even those who love it. What is this life worth even if one lives for a hundred years? When the last day arrives, do not all our past years and all earthly delights seem as though they had never existed? It is indeed unreasonable to fear to lose this quickly passing life, when one will receive that eternal life in which delights, riches and rejoicing begin and never end, remaining eternal to the ages of ages” (Prologue of Ohrid, December 18th ).
Don’t let your eyes get stuck on man, he is fading away like a flower in the field (cf. Ps 102:15).
1Note: this verse is not found in the “Orthodox Study Bible.” I do not know why.