The Higher Order

Psalm 8

“O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
to silence the enemy and the avenger.
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Sovereign,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!”   NRSV

What does it mean to be made “a little lower than God” and to be “crowned with glory and honor?” I suppose there are as many different answers as there are people. So, all I can offer is my take on what the Psalmist means.

Taking physical form out of the equation, the only real difference between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom is the human ability to discern, to see ourselves in context, to understand that there are consequences to our actions and to the words we speak. We have the ability to negotiate a shared existence that makes winner-take-all battles for food, clothing, land, and security unnecessary.  We have the capacity to make peace, not war. We are the only segment of the animal kingdom that can discern the very existence of God.

For me, the power of discernment is what makes us ” a little lower than God” on the hierarchy of being scale within the animal kingdom. It doesn’t mean we are necessarily more important than those with less developed brains. We just fulfill a different function within the created order.

How it must break God’s heart to see humanity, God’s crowning achievement, throw away this extraordinary gift only to act like animals governed not by discernment but a survival of the fittest mentality. Fear and domination is the realm of the lower orders. Power over the quest. Love and community-building focused on a shared understanding of the common good for all is the realm of the higher order. At the end of the day, the victors of the lower order worship self and what the self has achieved, regardless of the cost. The victors of the higher order celebrate the blessings of life – the blessings God bestows on us, the blessing we are to others, and the blessings both God and others shower upon us.

I can hear you say, “Greg, don’t be so naive!” To which I am compelled to respond, “It’s not naivete. It’s a choice. It’s a conscious choice, based upon prayerful discernment, made after living life by the rules of each order. It’s a conscious decision to claim my birthright and live it fully as one made “a little lower than God.” It’s my choice to honor and praise our Creator by striving to live my life by the ways of the higher order – loving all, building community (world) focused on a shared understanding of the common good for all. That’s the theme, the common thread of the Biblical witness I hear in my study and prayer. It’s not a suffering-free way of life. Pain and loss come to everyone. But, for over forty years, the joy and blessing have far outweighed the suffering and the loss.

What a joy to stand with the Psalmist and readily declare, “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” And, I do each morning in my time of study and prayer.

Be a blessing to someone today!


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