Value and Belief
After reading the blog post by Sparx last night about her husband, the Frog, being able to fix nearly anything, and then the Spud fixing something his father could not figure out, this morning I began to reflect on what was really going on behind that story. What induced the sudden flush of emotions and why do these experiences induce such good feelings in us and all who experience them?
What is involved at its roots is a sense of honor. And honor is inextricably tied in with value. It also provides a level of relief from the ever-present sense of shame or devalue in our hearts. But what was described in this story is the normally accepted way by which we generally expect to feel honor and value – through the achievement of 'value-adding' activities; we feel it is something we have to earn.
People in the Bible sometimes asked a question that reflects this deep desire in all of our hearts by expressing it this way: “What must I do to be saved?” It would not be inaccurate to rephrase those words in this way, “What do I have to do to feel valuable?”
I am coming to realize that nearly all of our thoughts and activities in life may revolve around this one core, intense need in our souls. We desperately need to feel valued, honored, loved, appreciated, wanted, cherished. We tend to put various labels on this inner craving depending on what culture or belief system we are part of, but scorning the words that others use to express the same desire is not helpful. Whether one calls this a need for better self-esteem or whether they call it a God-shaped void inside of us, we all find ourselves living in a world that is so permeated with shame and a sense of emptiness that we know there is something terribly wrong, that something inside feels like a tremendous vacuum that we keep trying to fill but with limited success.
It is important to note that the very essence of shame, that thing we so often use to leverage our relative position in life, is simply the act of stripping away a person's sense of value and worth. We can do this to others in myriads of ways and we can do it to ourselves. But shame is one of the most pervasive and effective elements of Satan's kingdom and permeates everything in and around us so much so that most of it remains invisible to our conscious awareness.
It does not help a great deal when we hear seemingly sterile religious answers for these expressions of our deepest longings for a sense of value. We are much more familiar with the surge of good emotions we occasionally feel when we do something for which we are given credit and are recognized and appreciated. The more public and focused the appreciation the more valuable we feel and that feeling can be very addictive. Like any drug addiction, we can quickly gravitate into believing that doing things that draw attention to ourselves to make us appealing to others is a drug of choice that will someday bring us the satisfaction that we so crave. Yet Jesus claims that this is the wrong direction to look to find the real thing. But is it safe to believe Him on this?
Why do we desire to live longer? What is the deepest core reason that many search for the way to obtain eternal life? What do we think about the quality of that life that makes it so appealing?
And someone came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" (Matthew 19:16)
As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17)
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25)
A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18)
"Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal." Therefore they said to Him, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?" (John 6:27-28)
And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:29-30)
All of these instances are examples of people very hungry for a sense of value and worth. And if you notice, there is a common assumption, a thread that runs through everyone of these questions. We believe we have to do something to earn what we long for so much. We have to earn enough value so that God will reward us with the ultimate prize – eternal life in heaven.
When these people got around Jesus they could not help but be attracted to Him, drawn to Him inexorably because Jesus literally emanated worth to all who came within His sphere of influence. This atmosphere however, highlighted the intense inner cravings for love and worth inside each person. The result was that the presence of Jesus either drew people inexorably to come to Him or their resistance to that drawing drove them to resent Him and feel more and more offended by His ways and words.
Notice the response of Jesus to each of the above situations.
And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." There followed a discussion about the 10 commandments that exposed that there was still no sense of satisfaction from keeping them.
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:17, 21)
Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, "One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Mark 10:21)
When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Luke 18:22)
These passages are not necessarily teaching that God demands poverty in order for one to follow Jesus. Rather, it highlights the extreme danger of allowing our possessions or achievements to be the basis for our sense of value. Jesus knew that this man's sense of inner worth was so tightly linked to his possessions that the only way he could embrace the real truth about the value Jesus had for him was to completely disconnect from the other things that he relied on to define himself.
When we refuse to emotionally turn away from all other sources of self-worth to believe in the worth that is already ours in Christ, we turn away from the only method through which we can be restored to our original design. And being restored to our original relationship with God, our only true source of value and worth, is the only path to experiencing real satisfaction.
He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:26-29 NRSV)
Notice the difference between how Jesus talked with this man and the others who launched into a list of the rules. Jesus affirmed this man's view of the true meaning of the law, the true purpose behind why God revealed His laws originally. We cannot achieve value by keep rules, we can only receive the truth about our inherent value by appreciating and embracing the truth of how God views us as His children.
Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." So they said to Him, "What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?" (John 6:29-30)
They said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. (Acts 16:31-32)
What does it really mean to believe? This is not a belief in a list of doctrines or simply a belief that Jesus is the Son of God. The demons believe those things and it makes them terrified. (James 2:19) No one will come into a loving, intimate, saving relationship with God by relying on fear to keep them there. And knowing true facts are not enough to connect us with our only Source of real life.
What is vitally needed if we are to find satisfaction for the God-shaped emptiness inside all of us is to connect with the only One who has the power and ability and desire to fulfill our deepest cravings to feel valued, cherished, unconditionally loved and cared for. This belief has to go much deeper than a head knowledge however. Our hearts must become honest about its deepest desires for value and love and to see that no other sources have the ability to satisfy. Those things may give us temporary pleasure or numb the pain of emptiness for a time, but they do not fit the shape of the empty spot deep inside.
Only when we turn to the One who created us, designed us, knows every aspect and longing of our souls, will we ever begin to feel truly alive, cherished, valuable and fulfilled. In addition, we will also begin to reflect that same sense of reality, that awareness of the value of all of God's children and creatures and will become channels of hope and grace and love to attract others into a similar value-aware relationship with God.
As we bond with each other in what we call church to share this sense of value and importance with other hungry hearts, we must learn to use positive methods for instruction, reproof, correction and nurture. We must learn to use God's methods of discipline – discipling, mentoring, revealing the heart of the Father – so that each person's sense of worth to God is enhanced rather than suffocated. Our sense of feeling valued is the core attraction that will draw us to fellowship with other believers, and the lack of it will drive us away. We must learn how to reflect the way God views us in the way we treat each other, refusing to use the methods and principles of the enemy such as shame, condemnation, accusations, insinuations, suspicion or comparing ourselves to others. The problem with the world's idea of value is that it is comparative rather than dependent on God's perspective alone.