Who are you?
Know thyself! This is the mantra, command, law of almost every person, philosophy, and religion. Everywhere you turn, you hear that the key to life is knowing yourself. Every person has a sense that human beings are in some way different from everything else. The questions ‘who am I and what I am here for?’ are central to so much of life. We are told, the most important question that you will ask in your life is: ‘Who am I?’ Know thyself!
There is a great importance in knowing oneself. Knowing who you are and what your purpose in life is, is one of the most important questions we can ask. We see the question frequently asked in Scripture. It is most poignantly posed in Psalm 8:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? - vv. 3-4
The psalmist lays forth the question of man. What is man? David places this question in a larger context. David says that while the question Who am I? or What is man? is important, this is not the most important or interesting question we can be asking. David says that the most interesting questions are Who is God? and What has he done?. The point is that it is only in the context of knowing God and God’s works that we can even begin to answer the questions surrounding humanity. Psalm 8 functions as an orientation point for us as we consider who we are and what we are for. Psalm 8 places questions surrounding humanity in the context of questions surrounding God. This Psalm points us to the truth that it is only in answering questions about God can we even begin to understand how to ask the right questions about humanity.
In knowing God and his works, we are able to get the perspective on ourselves. We have been created in a state of dignity. Yet, we are also created in a state of humility. When we get the questions the wrong way around, when we think that the most important question is ‘who am I?’, our lives get disordered. When we get the questions the wrong way around, we do not acknowledge that fact that we are created in a state of humility. We are not God.
But herein lies the beauty of the Gospel. When we are reoriented, we find out that our personal identity does matter. Answering the command to Know thyself, is rightly ordered and we find out who we really are. In knowing God and his works, we can know ourselves in relation to that. In knowing ourselves in relation to God, we know ourselves to be fully human. We are beings that are created with dignity and humility. We realize that our identity matters. However, our identity is not self-defined, but dependent on God and his proclamation of who we are.
We are told the biggest question that we will answer is: Who am I?. The Gospel tells us that the question we should be answering is: To whom do I belong?.
O Lord our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth.