Before we can become the best versions of ourselves and have a right view of ourselves, we have to recognize our true value. The world will tell you that your relationship with yourself is the most important relationship you have, and that increasing your self-esteem will correct any problems you have with feeling like you’re not enough in some way. But following that advice isn’t deeply satisfying because I think deep down we all realize that we can’t assign value to ourselves.
That begs the question, “Who can assign value to you?” Other people, society, or impersonal metrics aren’t good measures either. The only satisfactory answer is God. Only the Creator can assign value to His creation. He knows what He created you for and who He created you to be, and therefore only He can declare how valuable you truly are.
Testing Where To Look For Value
We’ve been talking about Ecclesiastes here on this blog for a couple week now (click here to read “Crash Course in Ecclesiastes” and here for “Letting Death Give Us Perspective On Life“). One of the things that Solomon does in this book is present an in-depth analysis of all the different places that we can look for value.
Solomon experiments with finding value in his own wisdom, in pleasure, in wealth, in fine works, in great power, and in the legacy you leave for future generations. But he describes it all as “vanity” (hebel, H1892) — a transitory, unsatisfactory thing. As we modern people read through Ecclesiastes, we often label Solomon as depressed (probably accurate) and having low self-esteem. But Solomon himself doesn’t describe the problem as not esteeming himself enough. He knows the self isn’t a good place to look for value, and he wants something or someone else to give life meaning and tell him his purpose.
As Solomon works though his existential crisis, he concludes that meaning can only be found in God. God is the one who sets everything in motion and the only one with an accurate perspective on His plan (Ecc. 3:1-15). He’s in heaven and we’re on earth, so we need to be wary of jumping to conclusions about things we know nothing about (Ecc. 5:1-7). In the end, everything boils down to our duty to fear God and keep His commandments (Ecc. 12:13-14). That’s the key to understanding who we are and where our value lies.
Recognition of Men, or of God?
During one of His discussions with the Jews at a Feast in Jerusalem (John 5:1, 18-19), Jesus makes a very interesting statement on the subject of where we look for our value.
“I don’t receive glory from men. But I know you, that you don’t have God’s love in yourselves. I have come in my Father’s name, and you don’t receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another, and you don’t seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:41-44, WEB)
The word translated “glory” is doxa (G1391). It means appearance, reputation, and the “recognition belonging to a person.” It has to do with who we are and how others see us. For example, when Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” Zodhiates takes this to mean “man is not what God intended him to be.”
In this passage from John’s gospel, Jesus tells us He does not receive glory from men, and we shouldn’t either. The word “receive,” lambano (G2983), also means to take as one’s own or to accept. We must follow Christ’s example in not taking the recognition that humans offer as the verdict on our value.
The part of this passage that I really want to focus on, though, is this: “How are you able to believe, if you accept glory from one another, and do not seek the glory which is from the only God?” (John 5:44, LEB). This is the reason we can’t look to human beings for our worth — it blocks our ability to believe in God. We can see an example of this in the rulers who believed Jesus was the Messiah but didn’t confess their faith because the Pharisees would have put them out of the synagogue. “They loved the praise of men more than praise from God,” and we dare not make the same mistake (John 12:42-43, LEB).
Your True Worth
God’s value system is different from that of this world and it’s vital that we find our worth in how He sees us and what He expects from us rather than in the world’s views and expectations. God’s Adversary is “the prince of this world.” Why would you think a world controlled by the enemy who wants you dead is a good place to look for a measure of your true value?
Indeed, replacing this world’s expectations and values with God’s is a key part of Christian life after conversion. “As obedient children,” we must “not be conformed to the former desires” but rather, “as the one who has called you is holy, your yourselves be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:13-16, LEB).
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves with fear during the time of your temporary residence, because you know that you were redeemed from your futile way of life inherited from your ancestors not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb (1 Pet. 1:17-19, LEB)
That’s the value God places on us — you are worth the death of Jesus Christ. Saving you is so important to a loving God that the Father gave His Son’s life to save you and the Son willingly submitted to torture and death in your place. To God, you are worth His life even when you were stained by sin (Rom. 5:6-11). Doesn’t that make you tremble in awe, pierced through your soul with the realization of how loved you are and how valuable you are to God?
God Decides Your Worth and Purpose
Last year, I presented a seminar and then a blog post called “As You Love Yourself.” The second great commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37-40). But we’ve lost sight of how to do that. After knowing people who’ve committed suicide, talking with people who tried to kill themselves, and reading others’ stories, I wonder if Paul could still write today that “no man ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it” (Eph. 5:29, WEB). It’s heartbreaking what’s going on today. People either love themselves too much, or in the wrong way, or they believe the world’s messages that make them feel worthless.
We need to love ourselves the way God loves us and because He declares we are loveable, not out of a pursuit for self-esteem or any thing that’s based in how the world measures value. To go back to Christ’s words in John, we who believe must stop accepting recognition from one another and seek recognition that only comes from God.
We are the clay and God’s the potter; He makes us the way He wants. No one else gets to tell you you were made wrong — only God has the right as Creator to say, “this is how you are made and what you are made for.” We do have some say in whether or not we become what He intended us to be, but we don’t get to decide He should have made us differently (Rom. 9:20-24; 2 Tim. 2:20-21).
How arrogant is it to think you have the right to tell God He doesn’t know what He’s doing or that He made someone badly, including yourself? (Rom. 14:4, 13; 1 Cor. 4:3-4). We must stop trying to come up with our own value system or using the world’s system to determine our value or our beliefs. It’s vital that we learn God’s value system and place our sense of worth in that. You’re value is determined by God, who made you and died for you and wants to help you realize your true potential in Him.