Who Is the Person of the Year…in God’s Eyes?

The end of the calendar year always brings with it a host of awards, recognitions, “best of” lists, and the like. And perhaps the most well-known of these was announced last week: Time recognized Donald Trump as its 2016 Person of the Year.

Of course, Time isn’t the only publication or organization that recognizes a man/woman/person of the year. GQ magazine tapped actor Ryan Reynolds, Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt, and actor/director Warren Beatty for the covers of its Men of the Year issue, while Glamour selected pop star Gwen Stefani in the same role for its Women of the Year issue. A bit narrower in scope is Sports Illustrated, which recognized NBA champion and Finals MVP LeBron James as its sportsperson of the year. No doubt we could find more examples.

All this got me thinking about something that’s admittedly speculative, but maybe helpful nonetheless: what if God gave out a person of the year award? What would be his criteria for selecting the winner?

I won’t do anything so foolish as to identify who God would pick, but I did start thinking about a few biblical episodes and how they might help us to see the kinds of things that God values.

For example, take the time God tells Samuel that he will choose a new king for Israel from among the eight sons of a man named Jesse. Appraising one of the sons, Samuel thought that he was surely the choice. But the Lord replied, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Or consider four instances in which Jesus favorably draws attention to women. He praises Martha’s sister Mary for leaving domestic chores to listen at his feet. He commends a poor widow for sacrificial giving two small coins, the only money she had. He praises the faith of a Canaanite woman whose humility extends to the point of identifying herself as a dog. And he highlights both the love and faith of a woman “who lived a sinful life” after she washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair and then anointed them with perfume.

And what is it that amazes Jesus? Apparently, the faith of a Roman centurion with a sick daughter who tells him:

Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, “Go,” and he goes; and that one, “Come,” and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this,” and he does it (Luke 7:6-8).

And what might an authoritative witness to Jesus contribute to the discussion? Writing to the church at Philippi, the apostle Paul first praises his colleague in this way:

I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel (Philippians 2:20-22).

And then he writes this about another associate named Epaphroditus:

So then, welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor people like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me (Philippians 2:29-30).

Going further into the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews spends an entire chapter commending several Old Testament figures—many of them significantly flawed—for the faith in God that they exercised in various concrete ways, even to the point of suffering and death (see chapter 11).

These are only a handful of the many examples that are relevant to the discussion. But I think they’re sufficient to make the point that what gains notoriety in our society and world is often significantly different than what God values. That doesn’t mean success, wealth, fame, political victories, cultural influence, etc., are inherently bad things. But it does bring up an important question: are we more willing to orient our lives in pursuit of those things on the one hand, or the qualities illustrated by the biblical examples (faith, humility, service, sacrifice, love, a God pleasing heart, etc.) on the other?

If you’re anything like me, you need lots of help to pursue the latter. And one foundational way that help comes is by regularly reorienting our perspective through the lens of God’s word. If you’d like to value more of what God values, consider spending some time reading the following passages over the next several days and asking God for the grace to shape your own life with them more and more:

Matthew 5:3-12

Matthew 13:44-46

Luke 18:9-14

Psalm 34

Psalm 73

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

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