Unworthy, not worthless


If you couldn’t tell from previous posts, I’m in the grueling process of rethinking my theology. I’ve learned that there are some life events that are meant to shape your faith, and others that reshape it. This is one of those reshaping times. If the average person lives roughly 70 or 80 years, I suspect this sort of thing is expected to happen several times.

I remember listening to a sermon in college that compared our worth to used tampons. But it was the imagery in that statement that disturbed me, not the implications behind it. For people who grow up Christian, maybe the idea of being unworthy of God’s love is accepted without much difficulty. I think the only reason I accepted that theology so readily was because my own sense of self-worth was practically non-existent: being in an abusive relationship for five years taught me worthlessness. I was forced to walk several steps behind him in public so people wouldn’t suspect we were together. You can imagine what that did to my self-esteem.

Even today, I’m amazed sometimes that I got married at all. I remember how much it blew my mind that my now-husband was so eager to hold my hand in public. I had never experienced that before. The idea of someone wanting to be with me, and even flaunting it, was baffling (but in a good way).

It’s no surprise, then, that I viewed God as viewing me with nothing but contempt and disapproval. If I screwed up somehow, I told myself I didn’t deserve good things to happen to me. After all, tampons that have been used no longer have value, and just get tossed in the trash.

Since this week is Holy Week, I’m rereading one of my favorite Easter devotionals – it’s the kind that tells me different things each time I read it, and Dale Fincher’s passage on unworthiness versus worthlessness is particularly relevant:

“’Unworthy’” is failing to live up to requirements. If you cheat your employer, you do not deserve a raise. If you don’t study for a test, you don’t deserve a good grade. If you come in last in the Boston Marathon, you do not deserve to win. But worth is about our value. Your merits can fall short, but you can still have value.”

I needed that reminder this week. For all my current doubts about what really happens when we die, what prayer is really for, and whether the Bible is truly inerrant, I needed to be reminded that Jesus was an underdog who came for the underdogs.

I’ll be honest – there are some things about Christianity that I never thought twice about before, which I now find contemptible. I struggle to reconcile those unsavory things with the goodness of the Jesus I have come to know. I want to understand, rather than discard the pieces of my faith that don’t make sense to me. I suspect this is something I will spend the rest of my life trying to figure out. But I don’t need to have everything figured out today. For now, I am going to contemplate what it means to have inherent worth and value not for what I do, but for who I was made to be.


8 thoughts on “Unworthy, not worthless”

  1. I was pondering on a previous post of yours in Church a couple of Sundays ago. These words are from one of the hymns we sang:

    “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
    Like the wideness of the sea
    There is a kindness in His justice
    Which is more than liberty.

    But we make His love too narrow
    By false limits of our own
    And we magnify His strictness
    With a zeal He will not own.”

    (Fred William Faber 1814-1863)

    It seems we’ve been arguing about God’s ability to love us for centuries and also whether we are worthy of that Love. To me it is a blasphemy to think we worthless or unworthy of God’s love. Is a tree unworthy, or a flower, or even a dull brown bird called a sparrow? God does not make trash. We are the ones who create the trash.

    “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful” (Psalm 139:13-14)

    Each human being has inherent worth because each human being is made in the image of God. And I will join you in your contemplation of what it means to have inherent worth and value because of the above and because of who God made each one of us to be.

    Love and blessings, Julia

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for posting this Beth. It’s very thought provoking! I find that many Christians are far too focused on how others interact with God; so many are there to readily point a finger and judge. Having accountability is good in that it reminds us to strive for the best side of us, but too much can be harmful. Everyone is different in their relationship, a relationship between an individual and their maker. A relationship that is meant to grow and evolve, just like marriages, familial connections, and friendships. I love your statement “I am going to contemplate what it means to have inherent worth and value not for what I do, but for who I was made to be.” Best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this inspiring post. Learning that unworthy isn’t the same as worthless can be a very difficult lesson for sure. I think that it is something that not only takes a long time (at least for some of us with certain histories) but that needs to be relearned on a (semi) regular basis.

    Liked by 1 person

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