Wednesday, August 24, 2011
My birthday is in the first part of February— usually a welcomed interruption from the mundane winter. In the early 1990s, I spent four birthdays near Cincinnati, Ohio where I attended a small college, and each year I shared a mailbox with another random student. I remember vividly one birthday going to my mailbox feeling a little down. I was having a bad day, week and semester. As I looked into my mail slot, I saw a stack of cards. Folks, these were not pieces of junk mail or college bills, these were of the Hallmark variety. So I turned them over not looking at the front and I counted them out the way a dealer counts out a hand…twelve of them! Yes, visions of twenty-dollar bills danced in my head. As I looked at who they were to, everyone was addressed to my box mate, Andrea. Ouch!! It was her birthday, too.
Maybe you know what it feels like to be trivialized. Perhaps a boss undervalued you by passing you up for a promotion. Or it may have been that a significant other forgot a very special date. Whatever it may have been, the pain of feeling that you do not matter was unleashed on you and it was intense.
An important question in life to ask is what gives you value? At times, we are assigned value based on the name brands we wear, the music genre we listen to and whether we use a Mac or a PC. Particularly in our society, our vocation gives us a lot of worth. For example, in our culture, when we meet someone for the first time, it is not uncommon to ask, “What do you do?” It is easy to highly hold the productive person while marginalizing the one with low output. But is it right to assign value to someone based on purely external or extrinsic factors? Does someone have value if he is not able to be productive?
In the first section or book of the Bible, we find a very helpful passage, Genesis 1:26-27, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Human beings are the very centerpiece of God’s creation, and therefore, have intrinsic value. We are God’s idea and his creation. Our value is something that is built-in.
What about an extortionist or a traitor? Let’s say someone who is controlled by greed, do they matter? It is hard to imagine that someone who preys on the weak of society pressing their selfish agenda is entitled to any kind of high regard. Someone like this is an impediment to society, a cancer that needs to be repudiated and removed.
From the Bible, Matthew, son of Levi, was a tax collector and someone it would be easy to despise. His job for the Roman Empire involved obtaining money through threats and even force. By aligning himself with the ruthless Romans, he was viewed as a betrayer by his Jewish brothers. Avarice led to his enormous wealth. But he found a warm shoulder from Jesus Christ who befriended him.
And then, on a regular business day, Jesus extended an invitation to Matthew the sinner, “Come follow me.” The gospel of Matthew 9:9 informs us that Matthew got up, left his tax collector’s booth and followed Jesus. Later, Matthew invited Jesus to dinner at his house along with many other tax collectors and “sinners.” The religious rulers of that time, the Pharisees, scorned Jesus, questioning why he would spend time with these blights on society. Jesus answered, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…for I have not come to call the ‘righteous’ but sinners.”
This may be a fitting message for you today, and I encourage you to embrace the concept that you are loved by the Lord despite your weaknesses, your faults and shortcomings. Your value to him means that he extends to you the possibility of forgiveness, a way to be reconciled to him and even a fresh start.
Let’s take this concept and pass it forward. There is a great song from Brent Helming called “Jesus Lead On” that points us all in a great direction. The lyrics go like this, “Jesus lead on and I will follow, Jesus lead on, let your love light the way.”