I’ve been thinking lately about worth. In particular, self-worth. What is it? Where do we get it from?
What is it that enables us to feel okay about ourselves? I have a hunch that for most of us, there is a schedule of certain things we need to achieve and/or maintain in our lives in order to lock in that elusive but powerful ‘drug’ known as self-esteem.
I’m thinking specifically of Christians. Following Jesus is a high calling – one which is supposed to take centre stage in our lives at the expense of all other pursuits. The Apostle Paul tells the church at Philippi that there is nothing else in his life that compares to the “surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus [my] Lord…”. (Phi 3:8) In fact, everything else in his life was considered a loss.
But I think we too often look at this and think, “Right – how do I DO that? What things do I need to DO in order to make that my reality?” In modern ‘Christianese’, there are definite things we need to do, aren’t there?
For example, don’t even flatter yourself to think you can be much good as a Christian without a daily quiet-time of at least 45 minutes. And even if you do, there’s the tithing to think about… 10% of your GROSS income is absolute bare minimum. Then of course there’s service in the church. 2 ministries at an average of 2 hours each per week will get you a pass, but the A+ grades go to those who spread themselves thin across at least 5 areas of church life, keeping you out 5 nights per week until at least 10pm.
If you can’t tick the boxes, don’t even begin to think Jesus is the slightest bit interested in you.
(At this point, I’m hoping my sarcasm above is clear!)
Even if we rightly believe that our salvation is faith-based, and not dependent on our ability to earn it, we still fall into the trap of thinking that our relationship with Jesus can be enhanced by good deeds. “If I can be better, He’ll love me more.” Or even, sadly, “If I’m not better, He won’t love me at all.”
A few months back, Trevor from Te Kauwhata won lotto to the tune of $26m. The mind boggles at that kind of money and the incredible (worldly) freedom it affords. But imagine for a moment that upon winning the money and seeing it deposited into his account, Trevor immediately moved to Wellington, donned his suit and tie, and reported for work at the Lotteries Commission. Trevor probably paid around $15 for his ticket, and that is all he needed to pay. But somehow he feels the need to work in order to earn the $26m.
Similarly, we have been given more riches than we can count. The very small cost we pay is acceptance, and obedience – but in comparison to the immeasurable wealth given to us, this is pittance. And yet, what do we do? We immediately report for duty, determined to earn it. Don’t we?
Both our relationship with Jesus, and our eternal life with Him, through the Spirit, in communion with the Father, are free gifts. Not only are we not required to earn them, it would be impossible for us to do so! Nothing we could ever say or do would be sufficient… and that’s the way it is supposed to be.
Sadly, when we attempt to work our way into Jesus’ good graces, we essentially belittle God’s generosity. “Sorry God, I just don’t believe You’re really that good.” Well He is. The incredible truth is that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In our state of complete worthlessness, God took action to redeem us and declare us righteous.
Only the righteous can enter into eternal life and relationship with Jesus – and when we accept His free gift of grace, righteousness is bestowed upon us. Free.
“Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However to the man who does not work, but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited to him as righteousness.” (Rom 4:4-5)
A daily quiet-time is immensely helpful in getting to know Jesus – the self-revelation of our Father.
Tithing is an important part of contributing to God’s work in our communities.
Serving the church is a privilege – we work alongside God Himself.
Whatever we DO ought to flow from who we ARE. We expend ourselves for God’s kingdom out of gratitude.
But none of this constitutes work for wages. We work not to earn God’s favour, but BECAUSE it was and is freely given.
So please stop beating yourself up for your failure to work hard enough. You can’t do enough… and you won’t ever do enough. And that is not only okay, it’s what was intended from the start. Instead, revel in God’s grace and mercy – two concepts that come alive in a personal relationship that is again freely offered in Jesus.
Phew. That’s a relief, isn’t it!?