Written By Daniel Ng, Singapore
I’m a jokester. God has gifted me with the ability to lighten up a tense atmosphere and cheer people up. But like so many others, I have used this God-given talent to glorify myself instead of Him.
To me, the more laughs I get, the greater my value. It strikes at the heart of me when I don’t get that coveted “hahaha”. As sad as it sounds, the truth is that I find my worth in my ability to draw laughter from others.
What about you? Where do you find your worth? In treasured possessions? In achievements and accolades? In relationships?
I believe that our choices lie at the core of our very being, and they are inseparable from our identity. The choices that we make in our lives, big or small, go a long way in defining who we are.
Whether we are choosing what to study in university, or our marriage partner, or even what to wear to school in the morning, our choices are based on what we value, the things that we deem “of worth”.
The problem comes when we blur the lines between what we value and what our value is. Don’t get me wrong—I’m all for striving hard for excellence in the careers and studies that God has so graciously gifted us. However, when we allow our careers or grades to define our worth, we’re paving the way to disappointment.
The truth is, everybody makes mistakes, and there will be times when we don’t meet our own expectations. We’ll also find that the people or things we so dearly hold on to fail us.
If my worth is in my relationship with my girlfriend, what happens when we break up? If my worth is in the number of likes I get on Instagram, what if I don’t get those likes? If my worth is in the number of A’s on my report book, what if I fail my exams?
I can tell you what happens then. I feel like trash. I feel worthless.
Only God is worthy
In my quest to ground my worth properly, I ask myself this: What matters the most? I formulated a question to help my search: If ________ wasn’t present, the universe would not go on.
Go on. Try to fill in that blank. I’ve tried it myself and I’ve found that the only answer that begins to make sense is “God.” It’s not my girlfriend. It’s not my grades. And it definitely isn’t the number of likes I get on Instagram. It’s God.
Philosophers sometimes say that God is the only necessary being in the universe. This simply means that without this Almighty God who created the universe and sustains it, the universe would not go on.
Since He’s the only One who matters, it would only make sense that we place our worth in God’s expectations of us. However, the Bible tells us in Romans 3:10-12 that every single one of us misses the mark of God’s good expectations. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves better or more desirable before a Holy God.
And with that, we’re back to square one. Since we fail to measure up to the only standard that matters, I guess we’re worthless then.
The liberating truth
Now here comes the truly liberating mystery at the heart of Christianity. John 3:16 tells us that God, in His love, sent His Son to the world so that we wouldn’t perish like worthless dust. While we were still sinners, He came to die for us and give us eternal life. He came to give us worth in God’s eyes. I get goose bumps every time I think of this.
If that isn’t enough to overwhelm you, in Philippians 2:6-8, we read of how Jesus humbled Himself. He is the infinite God, but humbled Himself to the form of a puny created being. He didn’t come as a king in riches, but came to be born in a stable as a helpless infant. This great God came to die in one of the most humiliating ways possible—to hang on a cross while people mocked Him.When someone has gone through all that for you, would you dare say in His face: “In Your eyes I have no worth”?
We have no more reason to feel and say: “I’m not good enough.” Neither do we have any reason to get caught up in our failures. To me, that is truly liberating. So now, I no longer study hard because my grades define my worth; I study hard because studying itself is a gift from God. And I want to show Him that I love and appreciate this gift. When it comes to relationships, I don’t put in effort because they determine my value, I do so because my friends are a gift from my loving God. It is only when we start to see our worth in light of God’s loving sacrifice that we will be able to give thanks, even in the midst of breakups, failures, and rejection.
Anything—other than the blood of Jesus—that we use to define our own worth is a sweet lie we tell to comfort ourselves. Our worth is not based on money or self-praise or even the “good Christian” things we do. Our only worth is our faith that the God of the universe died for worthless me, and I cling on to that fact. What a wonderful mystery this is—how we can be so unworthy and worthy at the same time when we stand before such a great God!