Dust: God’s Lessons for Our Existence

by Major Young Sung Kim

Have you ever thought about where humanity comes from, grounded on the idea of being formed from dust? Picture in your mind what dust looks like. At first glance, it is not something we find pleasant or want to touch. It seems dirty and lacks value. Generally, dust is not the type of substance we enjoy playing with.

The book of Genesis, meaning “beginnings” or “origin,” tells us that “the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7, RSV). God’s words in Genesis 3:19b further affirm, “for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” This creation story declares to us that our very essence comes from the dust of the earth, shaped by God’s hand, and that we will return to dust.

Given this biblical view of human origin, we may ask ourselves, “What does God want us to learn from the symbolic meanings of dust as the foundation of our being?” We can ponder three responses:

First, dust symbolizes life. In the Bible, when God created the first human, Adam, the name means earth or ground in Hebrew. This reminds us of our origin—that we are made from dust, created from the ground. Just as Adam’s name suggests, everything on earth comes from the ground. If the earth didn’t support life, no living thing would exist, because the ground is where every journey begins. This shows us how important it is to take care of nature, as it is the foundation of life that we are all connected to.

Second, dust symbolizes love. Think about how the ground accepts and embraces everything, without picking and choosing, even if it is not always pleasant. True love doesn’t pick and choose who it cares for. So, we can appreciate God’s mysterious reason for making us from the dust of the ground. Just as the earth embraces everything without discrimination, we should love each other without bias, just as we should love God with all our hearts. By loving each other without prejudice, we can create a community of shalom in this wounded world, just like the unbiased love shown by the earth.

Third, dust symbolizes humility. This becomes clear when we look at the story of Job in the Old Testament. Job was known as the greatest man in the East, living a happy and admirable life. However, one day, Satan was allowed by God to test Job’s faith. Suddenly, Job found himself facing unimaginable tragedy and loss. Through his suffering, Job remained humble and turned to God for understanding.

In Job 10:9, Job expresses his humility before God, comparing himself to clay molded by a potter. He asks God if He would turn him back to dust again. Even amid suffering, Job’s willingness to submit to God’s will shows his genuine humility and readiness to accept God’s sovereign guidance and provision. As dust symbolizes humility, despite life’s challenges, we can learn from Job’s example of humility.

Ultimately, Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to us as the Incarnate Savior, exemplifies true humility through His sacrificial death on the cross, offering redemption for our sins.

So, what does dust mean to you? What characteristics of dust do you want to embody? This Lenten season, we can reflect on the symbolic meanings of dust as a reminder of God’s blessings and the restoration of life. Take a moment to ponder the profound biblical implications of dust in shaping our relationship with God and others.

Major Young Sung Kim serves as corps officer, Hempstead Citadel, N.Y.