Sometimes God’s word looks like a great big list of don’ts—after all, eight of the Ten Commandments begin with “Thou shalt not.”
And how are we doing in staying true to those “shalt nots”? Have we flawlessly sidestepped each potential transgression? Have we kept ourselves a safe distance from every conceivable offense? Or, more likely, have we found ourselves stumbling, skirting too many boundaries too closely and falling headlong into the very sin we sought to avoid?
There are a lot of don’ts in God’s word. In many ways, it’s a checklist intended to protect us from life’s more damaging choices. Just as our parents warned us not to touch the stove’s hot burners in order to keep us from unnecessary pain, so too God asks, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent” (Proverbs 6:27-29). The actions and thoughts God condemns as sin are not arbitrarily chosen; rather, God forbids the choices and decisions that will inevitably bring us unnecessary pain and misery. The don’ts are there for our good.
But knowing the reason for all of God’s don’ts is not the key to a perfect track record. On the contrary, when we accurately hold ourselves up to the standard of God’s perfect law, what we see are flawed, imperfect beings constantly falling short of their goal.
And it’s good that we see this. This perspective helps us know who we really are, where we really stand before God. In a world that embraces the self beyond reason, it’s important to understand just how imperfect we are and how short we fall of our mark. There is no room for self-deception when we view ourselves through the perfect lens of God’s word, and that becomes doubly humbling when we consider that “whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 1:10).
No perfect scores
Unfortunately, all that measuring and examining can easily make us feel…worthless. It doesn’t take long to realize that no matter how well we might be doing, we aren’t doing well enough. We’re always falling short of that perfect score, always missing our mark. Always failing.
It was the apostle Paul who famously wrote, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do … I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.” It’s difficult not to feel his frustration as he writes, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:15, 21, 24).
It was Paul again who reminded us that the calling of God is not to the wise, the mighty, or the noble of this life…but instead to the foolish, the weak, and the insignificant so that “no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Wow. Paul must have been a hit at parties! And yet God ensured that these and similar perspective-checks were preserved within His word. Why? Because we need to know. It’s vital that we understand how unimportant we are because that serves as the backdrop for one of the Bible’s most incredible truths: the value of a believer.
Why bother with the worthless?
One of my favorite Psalms has David looking up at the vastness of the created universe and wondering, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?” (Psalm 8:4). David may have been a king, but here is the heart of a young shepherd boy asking God, “Why are You even paying attention to us? What makes us worth Your time?”
We aren’t inherently worth anything—our own experiences and the very word of God remind us that we are foolish, weak, and insignificant. So what does the Creator of the universe want with us? Why would He bother with anything so…base?
Let’s revisit 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, because we just skimmed it the first time and Paul has a good deal more to say than we allowed him:
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.
(1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
God is doing something with us. He chose the foolish, yes, but that’s only the first part of the picture. Why did He choose them? To put to shame the wise. God didn’t call “the things which are not” just so He could constantly remind them of their lack of worth. He called them to transform them into something that would bring to nothing “the things that are.”
God is taking the worthless and giving them worth.
From what is to what will be
When taken out of context—for instance, as nothing more than a giant list of dos and don’ts—the Bible functions only as a constant reminder of our worthlessness. It becomes an unattainable checklist we will never satisfy perfectly. But when we take it as a whole, we see more than a checklist. We see a promise—a promise that the Creator of all life loves His creation and has a plan to transform them, to take the foolish, weak, and insignificant of the world and reshape them into something so incredible that this world’s best and brightest will pale in comparison.
The prophet Malachi was inspired to write of a time when
…those who feared the Lord spoke to one another,
And the Lord listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the Lord
And who meditate on His name.
“They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts,
“On the day that I make them My jewels.
And I will spare them
As a man spares his own son who serves him.”
God doesn’t see as man sees. Where we see failure, He sees potential. He looks beyond what is to what can be, “declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'” (Isaiah 46:10).
God doesn’t look at us and see failures. He doesn’t see the foolish, weak, and insignificant. He sees sons and daughters; jewels and gems fit for His crown. That’s what we are to Him—children of the Most High, precious gems polished and shining to perfection. We’re not yet, but our Father who inhabits eternity sees what we can become with His help.
The value of a believer
We are flawed human beings. We’re imperfect and we spend a lot of time picking ourselves up off the ground, and we can’t afford to think of ourselves as better than we are. But we also can’t afford to lose sight of what God sees in us—jewels that will one day shine as His own special treasure.
You are not worthless. You are a beloved child of the one true God.
There is no greater value.
Until next time,