2347) Dust

8 Tips to Keep Your Home Dust-free

“You Are What You Sweep:  Why being made of dust is both terrifying and encouraging”

By Andrew Wilson, posted April 20, 2020 at:  http://www.christianitytoday.org .  Wilson is teaching pastor at King’s Church London and author of Spirit and Sacrament (Zondervan).


     Dust goes unnoticed, for the most part.  It surrounds us, but unless we work in construction, we hardly ever see it.  When we do, it is usually because we are trying to vacuum it up or sweep it away.  Although we are continually touching and inhaling millions of hairs, pollens, fibers, mites, and skin cells, we try not to think about it.

     Dust speaks of decay.  It comes about through the decomposition of other things, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral.  Dust in a home means skin cells have died and have broken away from the body.  All cells die.  Dust at a building site, it means something has been knocked down or destroyed.  Ghost towns and end of the world movies are covered in dust, highlighting the loss not just of creatures or structures but of civilization itself.

     And God says: You are made of that.

     It doesn’t sound very encouraging.  Being dust-people means that one day we will be dead people.  When humanity fell in the Garden, the resulting curse—“for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19)—clearly referred to mortality.  In a world where people pursue the elixir of life as enthusiastically as ever, the Bible makes the certainty of dying unmistakably clear: “People are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27).  We came from the soil, and one day we will again be part of it.

     People sometimes talk as if Christians believe in immortality and secular materialists don’t.  The reality is almost the opposite.  The certainty of death (something inescapably on our minds amid current coronavirus fears) is integral to Christianity.  Our future does not depend on immortality but on resurrection, while those most eager to postpone or even escape death typically have no resurrection hope whatsoever.  Early churches met in catacombs, surrounded by corpses.  To this day, many churches have graveyards and are filled with memorials and crypts for the faithful dead.  Our sacraments are graphically morbid: We bury people in the water of baptism, eat a broken body, and drink blood.  As the rich world spends good money trying to avoid (or avoid thinking about) death, part of the church’s mission is re-proclaiming the obvious: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

     The language of dust also highlights our supernatural, God-breathed origins.  In some of the Egyptian and Akkadian creation stories, humans are described as being made out of clay, which you can kind of imagine.  Most of us, with a bit of practice, could form clay into something resembling a person.  But you could never do that with dust.  The most complex shape I could make out of dust would be a pile, and even then a gust of wind would instantly scatter it.  What causes a bunch of particles to come together as a human being is not any property inherent in the particles; it is nothing less than the breath of God, which animates the dust and forms it into a living soul.  Without it, we are nothing more than a pile on the floor.  With it, we bear the divine image.

     Alongside this (vital) emphasis on dignity, there is an appropriate humility that comes from remembering that “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27).  Knowing we come from the ground keeps us grounded; the Latin word humus, meaning “soil” or “earth,” gives us the words humility and human.  There is great reassurance in knowing that God, in his compassion and fatherly kindness, sees us not only as princes, expected to rule the world, but also as dust and ashes, expected to fail sometimes and cry out for rescue.  As Hannah sang so beautifully in 1 Samuel, one of God’s favorite hobbies is lifting marginal, broken people from dust and ashes and “seating them with princes” (2:8).

     We may find it liberating, unsettling, or terrifying to contemplate, but one day our cells will be swirling in the autumn leaves, wedged between sofa cushions, and hidden behind radiators.  The same is true of the world’s most powerful and influential people.  Like Ozymandias in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem (see below), even our apparently invincible empires will finally turn to dust.  So will we.

     But only for a while.  One day, Paul says, we will no longer be modeled after the man of dust who came out of the soil, but after the man of heaven who came out of the tomb (1 Cor. 15:49).


Genesis 3:19  —  (God said to Adam), “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Genesis 18:27b  —  “…I am nothing but dust and ashes.”

Psalm 44:25-26  —  We are brought down to the dust; our bodies cling to the ground.  Rise up and help us; rescue us because of your unfailing love.

Psalm 103:13-14  —  As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.

Hebrews 9:27-28  —  Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.


“Out of the dust you are taken, unto the dust you shall return, and out of the dust you shall rise again.” 

–From a service for Christian burial at the cemetery


DUST IN THE WIND by Kansas (Kerry Livgren) 1977
I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams pass before my eyes, a curiosity
Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind
Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do crumbles to the ground though we refuse to see
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
Oh, ho, ho
Now, don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away
And all your money won’t another minute buy
Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind
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by Percy Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,

Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,

Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

Nothing beside remains.  Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


(Proverbs 11:7  —  Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing.)