Why Are You on the Earth?

Article by

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

George Herbert’s poem called “Praise” contains a verse that has been taped to my computer monitor since I first read it years ago.

Of all the creatures both in sea and land
Only to man Thou has made known Thy ways,
And put the pen alone into his hand,
And made him secretary of Thy praise.

This is the answer to our question. Why is man on the earth? He is here to be the secretary of the praise of God.

To which our querying minds say, But do not “the heavens tell the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), and not just man? Are not “the things that have been made” the secretary of his divine attributes (Romans 1:20)? Do not the “the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord” (Psalm 96:12), and “the rivers clap their hands” (Psalm 98:8)? Do not “the mountains and the hills break forth into singing” (Isaiah 55:12)?

Yes. They do.

But “there is no speech, nor are there words. Their voice is not heard” (Psalms 19:3). This is not the work of the secretary. The work of the secretary is to transcribe the song of the mountains, the clapping of the rivers, and the singing of the forest, and the telling of the heavens.

Man is here to interpret and transcribe the praises of God.

The singing trees are not the secretary. The psalmist who told us what the trees are saying is the secretary. The blog writer who quotes the psalmist is the secretary. The mother who points her child to the tree and speaks of God is the secretary.

“Man is here to interpret and transcribe the praises of God.”

For this, every human being was created. Being in the image of God does not mean being a dumb image (Genesis 1:27). We are talking images. We are images who write. And if the point of being an image is to image (which I consider self-evident), then we are to image in all the ways we are gifted to image.

And what we are to image is the original. Images are images of something. We are images of God. He is the original. And our imaging is to be true and clear. That is, every person is meant to image the praiseworthiness of God. We are to be the secretaries of his praise.

And if we fail in this secretarial calling, Herbert says, in this same poem,

He that to praise and laud Thee doth refrain
Doth not refrain unto himself alone,
But robs a thousand who would praise Thee fain,
And doth commit a world of sin in one.

Therefore, let us open our mouths and take up our pens and point the whole world to the praiseworthiness of God. This is why we are here.