When you think of yourself, what do you assume you deserve? What do you believe you have earned? How do you think God, if measuring your life, ought to consider you?
One of the strange errors that human beings make is that of assuming that we can measure our goodness or badness against that of other people. Sometimes we think we can measure our goodness or badness against our own former goodness or badness.
What is interesting is the fact that, the more godly a person you meet, the less likely she is to think herself to be good or worthy. Or read the old Puritans. There you will find men with godly habits that would shame our modern generation, yet who also considered themselves the most lowly of men.
In Luke 7, we read the story of a centurion who had a sick servant. A group of the Jews came to Jesus to ask him to help by healing the sick man. The question of worthiness is prominent in the discussion.
Luke 7:4-7 – 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed.
Notice that the Jews were quick to say that this man was worthy, deserving of a miracle. But the man himself, he quickly and clearly declared himself unworthy, not only of the miracle, but of the Savior’s attention at all. What gives?
As we get to know the Lord more and more, as we know his word and ways, we begin to understand that we are in no way worthy of any favor from God. You see, God’s standard for measuring goodness is himself and his perfections. No mere man, stained by sin from birth, is able to come close to matching God’s perfection. WE all know that nobody is perfect. We all know that we slip up and fail from time-to-time. And even the slightest single slip is enough to score us as infinitely below the standard of perfection that God would call worthy.
Yet there is something right about the contrary statements from the Jews and the centurion. The Jews thought the man worthy. They looked at his life, and they saw genuine evidence of a man who feared God. They saw change and right living. They saw a man whose life is marked by goodness. But the man himself knew is own flaws, failings, and shortcomings.
In truth, that conflicting pattern ought to mark our own measure of worth. If you are one who has come to Jesus in faith and repentance, if you have been forgiven by God’s grace through faith in Christ, your measure of yourself as compared to the way others measure you should mirror what we see here. Others should look at your life, see your obedience and the transformation that comes because of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, and they should consider you to be a good and worthy person. But you should know, deep down, that the only good in you is that which has been given to you by Christ.
By the way, how did Jesus feel about this man’s declaration of himself as unworthy but willing to ask Jesus for help?
Luke 7:9 – When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
Faith in Jesus is the key to our being accepted by God. It is a faith that God grants to us as a gift. It is a faith apart from works through which God grants us salvation and the righteous record of Jesus. And that faith helps us to see ourselves as unworthy yet willing to rely fully on the person and work of Jesus for our standing before the Lord.
So, are you worthy? By any human measure, if you know yourself, the answer is no. None of us is worthy of anything other than the judgment and wrath of God. But if you have come to Jesus in faith, God has granted you forgiveness for your failings and the righteous record of Jesus for your record. Thus, in Christ, the Father calls you worthy even as you have never done anything to be worthy a day in your life. With that forgiveness comes new life and transformation. That leads us to live differently than ever before. And that difference should make others around you see you as worthy even if you know that all your goodness is a gift from God and God alone.