Know that the LORD is God. It is God who made us, and we are God's; we are God's people, and the sheep of God's pasture. - Psalm 100:3 (NRSV)
The self-made man is one of America's most enduring cultural archetypes. A sort of rugged individualist, he (and it is always a he) rises to the top with skill, determination, and grit. People running for high office often cast themselves as self-made men. It's as American as apple pie.
But there's a problem. It's not a Christian idea.
As a Christian, I know I haven't created myself. I come from God and will return to God. It is not degrading or humiliating. Psalm 100 is a shout of joy that I am not self-made but God-made.
It is a joyful chorus about who we are, not just me. The psalmist's highest aspiration is to be one in the flock of sheep belonging to God. Not the best. Not the wooliest. Not the bleat-ing-est. Just one sheep among God's flock.
Under the myth of the self-made man, I should hoard everything I own because everyone's wellbeing is their own problem. But as a sheep of God's pasture, I should share what I have—because when the flock is strong, I am too. Under the myth of the self-made man, if I'm in hard straits I have no one to blame but myself. But as a sheep of God's pasture, in hard times I can call out to my shepherd—the Good Shepherd who supplies my need.
What a relief to be free from that myth! What a relief to be able to live God's story instead!
God, help me rely less on myself so that I might rely more on you.
John Edgerton is Associate Pastor at Old South Church in Boston, Massachusetts.