How am I valuable? How do I know I am worth something? Why do so many people struggle with feelings of worthlessness? Something inside us wants to matter — to be valuable. But where do we look?
All around us we see messages about who is valuable. Billionaires have now replaced millionaires as the envied class. Pop stars rocket to the top of the charts for fame and glory. Olympians train for years to compete in front the whole world to find out who is best at running a mile or doing amazing things on a wooden beam. Spectators pay hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to watch a bunch of men crash into each other as they try to move a small odd-shaped ball down the field. Little kingdoms dot the hills of Malibu, while their owners drive around in vehicles that cost more than most homes in the hood. And a handful of CEO's pocket more in a single bonus than most people make in a lifetime. Who has value? What does it mean to be important?
If those are the terms, then 99.99% of the world has no value. We can dream of being big and important and that's about it. But what if …
What if all that glitz and flourish is merely entertainment at best, and perhaps even self-indulgence at its worst? What if we are all immersed in a massive distraction about what is important and how we matter? What if our worldly achievements were never meant to define us at all? What if they are opportunities for something else that too often gets squandered for a few moments of self-adulation? More importantly, what if our value comes from something else entirely?
Measuring our worth by success and failure is like trying to determine the temperature with a yardstick. It's the wrong standard of measure, and it leads to faulty conclusions about what is good and who matters. The Good News is that our failures no longer have the last word or get to condemn us. But guess what! Our successes have no more power to define us than our failures.
In the Kingdom Among Us, there are only a few defining traits. The first is not who we are but whose we are. "You belong to God, and you were bought at an incredible price," says Paul. We have value by virtue of our Father's love and the price He paid in order to rescue us from ourselves. We matter to Him, who was so determined to have us that He would rather die than live without us. We are wanted more than we will ever know.
Second, we are valued not by what we can do, but by who we are becoming — measured by character and our participation in receiving all that God has for us, and by what He will do in us and for us. Much of what we get out of life is the kind of person we become (from Dallas Willard). Which leads us to a third factor, which has to do with giving away the lavish love the Father gives to us. We matter to all the world, as lights who shine in darkness and show the way to the Father.
Of course, none of this is cause for boasting or having our picture on the front of Time magazine. For everything we have of value, everything we have that gives us value, we receive. We do not need to try to achieve value, because the yardstick of performance won't help us anyway. Let us rejoice in being wanted and mentored by God for so much more than mere achievement. We are destined for capital 'G' Good. Nothing could be better than that.