You hear a lot in Christian circles about how "unworthy" we are. You hear a lot of it in Christian music, too. And this idea of our unworthiness is one that's meant to champion God's goodness and grace... But it's misleading. It's misleading because, while God's love and goodness may not be something we have to earn or deserve, that doesn't mean we aren't "worthy" of it.

Here's something important that we often forget when it comes to "worthiness":


the one giving the gift is the one who decides whether the one receiving it is worthy.


So it's odd when Christian culture tries to show its appreciation specifically by telling God how unworthy we all are... Like that's going to prove something. Like God was holding our imperfections over our heads, wanting us to grovel before he would treat us the way a loving Father would. As if that's the response God is looking for - us clinging to how pitiful we are.

Consider this: If I do something for you that helps you, I must think that you are worth my doing it. And it would be weird if you were to sit there telling me you aren't actually worthy. In fact, if you responded like that, it would seem to me much more a reflection of the way you see yourself than it would a reflection of the way I see you. 

Think about that. 

I have heard way too many Christian songs on this theme over the years - passionately declaring how terrible and worthless we are. I call it "wrist-slitting worship." Kind of a dark way to describe it, I'll admit, but it is what it is. I find this whole line of thinking self-defeating, self-focused, and beside the point... Because, again, it's up to the gift-giver to decide if you are worth the gift of not. And when you go on and on about how unworthy we are, you are suggesting that there is nothing inherently lovely or beautiful about us. You are implying that God acts on our behalf in order to love us.

That's backwards.

God loves us and takes joy in being with us, and so God acts on our behalf. It never would have been up to you to motivate that connection and intimacy in the first place, so it's strange to say you aren't worthy of it now. God moves to renew and restore and preserve your worth, not to create it. It was already "all good" when you came into existence. You were already valuable.

But this sort of "I'm not worthy" distraction in our thinking and theology shows us something. It shows us that we still have a long way to come in understanding God as "Abba" in the way Jesus told us to.

You see, a good father isn't concerned with whether a kid earns love and mercy. A good father isn't hung up on a child telling him how unworthy she is. A dad just loves and gives recklessly. And a child just receives and knows she belongs... She doesn't grovel as though she was before a ruthless emperor who wants her to cower and feel like she's nothing in order for him to feel gratified. She knows she is safe in the arms of a loving parent who would do anything for her - who finds her precious and worthwhile, no matter what she has or hasn't done. And when she looks into that parent's eyes, she sees that she has value. She has worth. She would never cry out otherwise, because that very perception of worth is what empowers her to see herself as her loving parent sees her.

To contradict that perception is, on some level, to refuse to embrace God's posture of love. If I insist on my unworthiness, am I not disagreeing with God in a vain attempt to honor God? 

God does not relish in your self-pity. It's not the sacrifice you must bring in order to make God satisfied. The response of "I'm not worthy, I'm nothing!" is not one that God expects or requires before God will delight in us recognizing the goodness and love we have known. You can be appreciative of the love you receive without falling into the trap of thinking you aren't worthy of such a love. 

And gratefulness is not to be found in the constant undermining and contradicting of the way God sees you. 


Of course you're worthy.


That shouldn't be a bold statement. It's simple: You're worthy because you have inherent worth. You bear the image of God. You are beautiful and fascinating and precious. 

...And it doesn't diminish God at all to say so. In fact, it upholds what God says about you, rather than what insecurity, shame and religiosity have to say about you. When those poisonous things take root, they distort our perspective of God. They've been doing so since the beginning - twisting our view of God's heart, and God's nearness.  

The understanding of "worthiness" should not be framed as though God acts in spite of you, because that misrepresents God's central posture toward you as a child. Your worth is inherent - it's not about what you have earned, deserved or merited. Your worth goes far deeper than those actions and behaviors. Worth shouldn't be confused with merit at all. Worth is at the very core of you. It exists as soon as you exist. You don't even have to be aware of it in order to have it. It's built into your substance. 

Albert Einstein said, "Love is a better teacher than duty." When we make a discussion of our worth a discussion of what we have (or haven't) done, we are making our discussion one of duty... And thus, we are not learning from the better teacher, because we are not seeing through the eyes of love. We are not seeing through the very essence of what makes God... God. 

Delight in this: It was never up to you to prove yourself worthy. It never would have been.

That's a distortion of what worthiness is even about.

You were born, and you are loved, and therefore... you are worthy, because worthiness isn't a choice you ever had to make.

2 Comments