There is something mesmerizing about watching a dog or a deer run across a field. Their bodies move, their legs stretch, and their feet pad, all with a subtle grace. This morning I was walking my dogs down the driveway after they had eaten their breakfast and I took notice of how their front paws gently folded up under their contracting legs for a moment just before they reached forward for another step. I watched for a few steps before my sight was drawn to the contrasting stiffness of their back legs and how they were always prepared with strength for driving the dog forward. Moments later a deer ran across the distant edge of the field and I noticed the same movements.
For a moment, I was tempted to laugh and sarcastically say something like “isn’t evolution wonderful” but then I decided to really contemplate that question. I don’t mean to say I pulled out Darwin, Gould, or Dawkins to read, I mean I asked myself the simple question of whether it makes more sense that the subtle and complex beauty of the dog’s legs came from time and chance or whether it makes more sense to posit an intelligent being. I don’t want to discount all the work scientists on both sides of this debate have put in, but when it comes right down to it, I think a quick answer rooted in common sense is the most enlightening. It seems to make more sense to conclude an intelligent being behind such complex beauty than to think it all came to be by mindless time and chance. But please don’t misunderstand me, my purpose here is not to debate evolution, but to explore the consequences of being creatures ultimately created by an intelligent being: God.
With regard to my dogs, I must admit I am their caretaker, but not their creator: someone else is responsible for that. My dogs may thank me, if they could, for providing shelter, food, and scratches behind the ears, but they may not thank me for giving them life. I suppose, if they could speak and if they could understand the very complex relationship between non-being and being as intermediated by God, they would have many things to say to and about God. But they do not have the ability to speak. They merely bark, wag, growl, and sniff. They eat, drink, sleep, and chase other animals. They live solely by instinct not know that there is someone to whom they should be thankful.
When I look at humans, I think very similar thoughts. There is a complexity and beauty to the human body that forces us to ask where it came from. It forces us to decide between either blind time and chance, in which case we have nothing to be thankful about and no one to be thankful to, or God, in which case we must find the words to thank him. Sadly, however, much human behavior, (mine included) is not often very much different than animal behavior. We bark, wag, growl, and sniff…well, maybe we don’t use those words, but we do complain quite a bit, we find ourselves elated by the movement of our emotions, we can be quite grouchy, and we do tend to follow our sense more often than not. We eat, drink, sleep, and chase other humans. Sometimes we chase them for what they can give us, sometimes we chase them so they can satisfy our needs, sometimes we chase them so we can give them a piece of our mind, and sometimes it is because we are enamored with them. But the point is that we, like my dogs, chase.
We can also often act like dogs in that we do not take time to sing praises to the Lord. I don’t mean to say we don’t go to church and participate in worship, we go, but deep down in our heart we really don’t praise God for much of anything. We have what we have and it all seems natural. None of it seems to be a gift of any sort and none of it seems to be out of the ordinary. We view our existence in the same way. We were born, we will die, and we are enjoying the time in between that we have. But when was the last time we thought about how God made us, and as a result, that we are his. He is not merely our caretaker, as I am for my dogs, but he is our owner, creator, and the very reason for our existence.
I think this is the important point of Psalm 100. Not just that we are to praise God and sing to the whole earth, but that we are his creation, we are owned by him, we are his. Let that sink in for a moment. We are not our own, we are his. We are owned by the one who created us, and he is good. And while it is good to praise him because he is our caretaker and His steadfast love endures forever, it is necessary for us to realize we are first, and foremost his. It is this fact that should be great cause for praise and rejoicing in our lives.