How many times have you asked “What’s it worth?” A car, house, advice? I like definitions because so often meaning gets lost in use. Dictionary.com says worth is something “good or important enough to justify.” Of course that word “justify” is loaded, particularly for Christians (to declare guiltless or innocent) and is a topic in itself. Let’s leave it simply as “showing to be just or right.” So for something to have worth it needs to be good or important enough to be just or right. A house that is worth what you paid needs to be good enough to justify the mortgage. A car worth the cash or payments. Advice? Well I guess that’s where we get “that’s my two cents.” But this is where the meaning of “worth” has been lost. We tend to see worth in terms of dollar signs. And that meaning is transferred to people. What we make, where we live, what we drive, that determines worth. And before you get high-and-mighty, do some self reflection. You drive by a mobile home park and a few miles down the road you drive by a neighborhood of large brick homes. Do you have a different impression? You pull up to a red light next to someone driving a 20-year-old car with rusted doors and dents. Then you see a Lexus SUV drive through the intersection. What crosses your mind? Commercialism, materialism, capitalism. Whatever the source, we’ve been conditioned to judge worth based on what we have and how much it cost.
Now, I’m not writing a guilt trip on judging others. I’m writing to open your (and my) eyes to how we judge ourselves. Because I believe that’s where we start to see things differently. We will never see worth in someone else if we don’t first believe we’re worth something. Maybe you’re the one driving the beater, or living in the trailer. Does that affect your worth as a human being? It does in the world’s economy. And we buy into it day after day. Or you might be the one behind the wheel of the Lexus (I’m not picking on Lexus drivers. It’s just an example). Does that make you a better person? Wiser? Kinder? You might be wise and kind, but the car doesn’t make it so. And besides, does the person with two Lexus (is it Lexi?) worth more? How many would you need to own? How much do you need to make? Because there will always be someone who makes more. Does that make them worth more?
If our “stuff” doesn’t determine worth, what is the standard? Maybe our education or job status. High school diploma, associates degree, bachelors, masters, PhD: How many certificates, diplomas or accolades need to be hung on our walls to fill us with worth? Is the person with an 8th grade education worth less than the CEO with an MBA?
It could be the way we look. How much do we spend on clothes trying to keep up with what’s in? And I’d like to know who decides that anyway? Who says shoulder pads are back in? Really? No thanks. But we buy into it don’t we? If it’s not what we put on our bodies, it’s what we’re doing to them. Plastic surgeries have seen a steady increase over the past twenty years. And that doesn’t count the injections, sculpting, freezing and burning our way to beauty. These procedures aren’t just the indulgence of women. More and more guys are looking to nip and tuck their way to a better life. The ads show youthful, carefree men and women with ear to ear grins. New and improved. But does that increase their worth? What do we need to look like to be “good or important enough?”
Maybe it’s our religion. Our spirituality. How often do you go to church? Are you reading your Bible every day? Do you speak with all the languages of earth and angels as Paul describes to the Corinthians (I Cor 13:1)? Do you tithe? Give to charity? Volunteer? Help your friend move? Recycle? How much do you need to do to be worth something?
At this point it probably doesn’t come as a surprise that I don’t think any of these categories determine worth. Not of human beings anyway. And in theory it might be easy to agree with. But we don’t act like it. We struggle to attain more with the aim of being more. Richer, smarter, holier. But do we ever find the self-worth we’re after? Do we see the worth in others? I don’t think we do. Because we’re looking at it all wrong. Our worth does not come from ourselves. Not from what we do nor who we are. If you think about it, it makes sense. With our insecurities, imperfection, weaknesses and limited view, how can we see clearly enough to really know? We try to fill the void in our self-image from a well that’s, at best, half full. And for some of us, that well often runs dry. It’s like trying to fill a bucket of water with the same bucket of water. There will never be enough. We aren’t qualified to determine value. Not our own and certainly not other’s. What we are worth comes directly from our Creator. God is the only standard from whom we can assess our value. And here’s the best news: God thinks you have great worth. Just look at what Jesus says:
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Matthew 10: 29-31 NLT
As a side note, I love that this shows us how much God cares about all his creation, even sparrows! But we are more valuable that the sparrows God so intimately knows. God created everything, so only he is qualified to know its worth. Not only did he create the world and everything in it, he keeps it all going:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:16-17 NLT
This is a long way of saying: “God made it and he’s got it together.” We are God’s creation. And he made everything with purpose. If the little sparrows are noticed, you can bet he’s got his eye on you. But how do we know we were created with great worth? How do we know it’s an intrinsic worth and not based on bank account balance, portfolio, square footage or sunday school record? Because God didn’t just create us. He paid for us. Before we ever had a bank account, a house or went to church.
. . . You are not your own; you were bought at a price. I Corinthians 6:19b-20 NLT
Imagine for a moment your most coveted item. It’s different for everyone. For me, it’s an updated house. I know, it’s pretty shallow. But just look through your bank statement. Where does most of your money go? How do you spend most of your time? We invest in home projects, car projects, kid’s projects. What about goals and dreams? Traveling? Promotions? Finding your soulmate? What are you willing to do? How much are you willing to pay? $100? $1000? $1.9M? Would you sacrifice sleep, health? What about your first-born? Seems that’s the ultimate price. And that is just what God did. He wanted to have a lasting relationship with you and you were worth so much he sent his only son to be beat, ridiculed and crucified. Here we are 2000 years later still trying to buy and justify our worth, when we had it all along. And then God went and purchased us to show us how valued we are.
Imagine you are a master sculptor. You’ve spent decades crafting and perfecting a single vase. You committed hours to every detail, molding the perfect shape, carving the intricate details. Finally it’s ready. You put it up for sale. But you love it so much you spend every penny you have to buy it. God is the sculptor. We are the clay. And we are worth every penny spent.
Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8 NIV
God created us and paid for us because he designed us to have worth apart from anything in the world. There’s not a single car, house, degree or ministry that could make us worth more. So we can stop running after these things. Our worth is secure.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Matthew 6:25-30 NIV (emphasis mine)
If we could understand, accept and live in the incredible value God has placed on our lives, how much more could we begin to value others? Judgement would be dissolved by grace. Manufactured pride would begin to crumble under the power compassion. The need to receive praise, attention and inclusion would be swept away by the winds of love and acceptance. If you really understood how much you are worth to God, you would be filled with so much love for him you would not be able to contain it. It would spill over to others. That well you’ve been trying to draw your worth out of? Jesus is the well that never runs dry. You can dip into it as much as you need and there will still be more than enough. Enough to share with everyone. Imagine if the drought of self-condemnation, insecurity, doubt and anxiety could be refreshed by embracing the love, value and worth God has given to us, before we ever did a thing.