The case of self Worth

Man has two aspects to his nature that need to be duly addressed when we talk about his identity- human depravity and divine design. Be it low self-esteem or self-righteousness that history has shown to man’s tainted name, it is a lack of acknowledgment of one of these two aspects that models these patterns. A lovely song about the Cross comes to mind when I think of this, “My Worth Is Not In What I Own”, which goes,

“Two wonders here that I confess,
My worth and my unworthiness,
My value fixed, my ransom paid,
At the cross.”

Some prominent things define our earthly identities. These things show how another human sees, regards, and treats us. Some characteristics of these identities are changeable, and some are not. Human pursuit as we understand it today has been much about the pursuit of improved earthly identities in the hope of man’s glory. A high-paying job, an aesthetic-looking body, fancy cars, and homes are the 21st-century individual’s bucket list, not for the sufficiency of life but for the pleasures of it. However, in the Parable of Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Christ speaks of our true identities and how is it we head to our final destinations. To this end, we do not see mankind persisting. While we live in contention of flesh and spirit, when we place our identity in the matters of the flesh, we will stumble and fall, for the ways and schemes of this world are wicked and fleeting.

We continue to live our mortal lives in the hope of eternal glory and a Christian’s identity must be in Christ alone, just as there is One salvation, faith in Jesus Christ, that spares us from his divine wrath and righteous anger. The Psalmist cries, O my soul, you have said to the Lord, “You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You.” (Psalm 16:2). In this goodness of God our identity lies, an identity that gives our lives purpose and our souls, calling.

The mental health crisis we see today is evidence of this- both in an unbeliever and the believer appeasing his carnal self.
Unless we embrace our true identities that are in Christ Jesus, we will be of faltering worth in our sight.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). The new creation that we are, walking in the call to do all things for God’s glory, there is a greater danger for the Christian who seeks his glory in those good works. Our flesh deceives us when we speak of our good works with a desire to be applauded by men- our mouths proclaim, “I boast in Christ Jesus” and our heart yearns for its glory. Let us be wise here, fellow believers. In true humility and absolute obedience, Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, that he be glorified and that the Father be glorified in Him (John 17:1-5). Christ has promised us eternal glory in Him (Romans 8:30) and we would be foolish to yield ourselves to our glory in good works.

The beauty of creation and the intrinsic worth of a man is described by David in Psalm 139:13-15, where he says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” To the King of a glorious nation, a man that went from rags to riches, David rejoices in his own self, not in pride but in the handiwork of God in him. So should we. “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We have much cause to rejoice in our self-worth for it is God’s redemptive work.

To what end can we dwell in our self-worth? A much-mentioned passage in the secular world today is Jesus’ command, “Love your neighbour as yourself” (Mark 12:31), from which extrapolation is made in this statement- “You cannot love another unless you love yourself”. Self-love conversations today, as wholesome as they sound, are not Biblical. In his letter to Timothy, Paul talks of the end times with a generation of people who are lovers of self (2 Timothy 3:2). The sacrificial love of Christ cannot be depicted in the lives of those who love themselves. Self-love patterns lethargy, lack of accountability, greediness in us. But in hating ourselves we become people of the cross, quick to gospel and selfless in our deeds, and our joy and hope will be in the Lord, who will bless the labour of our hands.

In the worth bestowed upon us, we live as living sacrifices and view others as worthy of love. The response from self-worth will then be servanthood to mankind unlike self-love, where one always comes before others. “Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord, and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:2-8). In acting from self-worth, one is not oblivious to or reckless about his own needs but is always mindful of those around. In a world that preaches self-love, it is important that our EU groups and open homes are safe and loving places. Our intention when we gather as believers should not be to merely receive from the fellowship but grow in the Lord and give to one another.

Quoting a few more lines of the song,
My worth is not in what I own
Not in the strength of flesh and bone
But in the costly wounds of love
At the cross.

“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honour” (Psalm 8:4,5). Such love God has for us, unworthy as we are. Let us be diligent, doing all we do for God’s glory, honouring God in our lives and in the worth He has given us.

Jannie Sanjana Stephen is an MS student at IIT Madras. She began her journey with UESI as a student at Shiv Nadar University, Greater Noida, where she was part of Greater Noida EU. Currently, as an intern in Bangalore, she continues to be part of EGF. She enjoys writing poetry and discourses with Biblical criticism.

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