Thursday, September 17, 2015

Unworthy: When Feeling Bad Isn't So Bad

“So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.”  Luke 17:10

Do you have those days when you just don’t feel very good about yourself? I hope so, because I do. It’s not really a pity party or anything like that. It’s more that sense of not being where you wish you were in terms of maturity, or feeling like you should be better, farther along, stronger, more loving, more forgiving, less irritable, more mature, smarter, or wiser than you are at this point in time. I was feeling some of that yesterday morning. And when I think of all the blessings I have, all I’ve experienced, all of the grace and mercy I’ve experienced, and all the lessons I’ve supposedly learned (and even taught), I feel a strong sense of unworthiness of all those kindnesses. There are times when a sense of being unworthy of God’s goodness and grace becomes almost overpowering.
  • When you realize how much you take the goodness of God and others for granted.
  • When you recognize how blessed you are but you don’t feel particularly grateful.
  • When you sense the reality of sin’s consequences in your life but you don’t think about the offense of sin toward the One who died because of it.
  • When you find that you see others receive grace and wonder why, while at the same time needing grace and treating it as a right.
  • When you fall into “that sin” that has been such a challenge in your life right after deciding it was time to change.
  • When you realize that you have been judgmental toward people with obvious sin problems, but you have let your own socially acceptable or easily concealed sins go without a thought.
  • When you think about how long it’s been since you saw yourself as not good, not holy, and not right about almost everything.
These and many other circumstances may shake us and make us alarmingly aware of just how unworthy we are of God’s kindness toward us. And they probably should.
However, Jesus concludes a very sobering dialogue with his disciples about obedience with the statement above—those who have done everything they were supposed to do are not praiseworthy—in fact, they will see themselves as “unworthy servants” –unworthy of any praise or special treatment because all they have done is what they should have done anyway.
Now, there are at least two problems with this passage. First, we tend to think that when we’ve done what we are supposed to do, that we are demonstrating something good and praiseworthy in us. And in this context it just isn’t so. Second, if the people who did everything that they were commanded are “unworthy servants,” what does that make us, if we are doing less than what we are commanded?
The only answer I can come up with is “even more unworthy!” We can’t spiritualize this passage or make it say less than it does. Perfect obedience to all commands doesn’t make us “worthy” of the Master’s (God’s) praise. It only makes us properly obedient to the Master. We who don’t obey perfectly are even less praiseworthy and more “unworthy” of our position.
But at this very point we need to stop thinking about unworthiness and start thinking about grace and the message of the Gospel. Isn’t this the point? Isn’t it the truth we trust in that Christ Jesus came to save “sinners,” not worthy people? Feeling unworthy is actually in line with the truth, but it has no bearing on our standing before God.
am unworthy, and will be unworthy on my very best or worst days. But the worthy One, Jesus, has taken away my guilt, borne my punishment, and applied His perfect righteousness to me. He makes me His co-heir because He wants to, not because He owes me. Discovering my unworthiness ought not to be alarming but simply another “reality check” about me. And it makes the grace of Christ just that much more amazing.