Wednesday, May 10, 2017

How Much Are You Worth?

            When I was in High School I read Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. I’ve re-read it a few times since then and it has impacted me similarly each time. The book chronicles Frankl’s experience as an inmate at Auschwitz during World War II. In an environment where Jews were treated as worthless non-persons, Frankl tried to find meaning in every moment of life—even suffering. Frankl wasn’t a religious man. Instead, he was a psychologist. Frankl attempted to develop meaning and value within humanity by whatever means possible. Frankl realized that humanity had value and meaning and each person needed to recognize their value and hold on to that meaning. Doing so would nurture hope in the future. However, what Frankl failed to identify is where does your value come from? Who decides you are valuable? How Much Are You Worth? How you answer this question for yourself will dictate so many things in your life. Some of those things don’t seem like they are life or death but they are nonetheless very often tied to how you value yourself—Will you stay in school? Will you go back to school? What will you buy for yourself next? Will you take that new job? Some things, though, are very much a matter of life or death and are clearly related to how you value yourself—Will you take that next drink? Who will you sleep with tonight? Will you put a stop to the abusive relationship you are in? Who will you choose to associate with?

            In 2010, Aaron Hernandez was drafted by the New England Patriots and enjoyed significant success as a professional football player. With an already questionable past and ties to a gangster lifestyle, in 2013 Hernandez was found guilty of murdering Odin Lloyd and sentenced to life in prison. He was just twenty-three years old when he entered prison. Then just a few weeks ago, we learned that Hernandez was found dead in his jail cell. He had evidently hanged himself. I was thinking of Hernandez this week and was trying to imagine what his life must have been like at the end. I’m not saying that Hernandez didn’t deserve to pay for his crimes but I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the horrible decisions he made in his life were because he was seeking self-worth in all the wrong places. I’m sure that at twenty-eight years old it can seem hopeless to think that you will be spending the rest of your life in prison. Like others who take their own life, I’m guessing he didn’t think his life was worth living so he took his own life. So what you think about your own value really can be the difference between life and death. I know virtually nothing about Hernandez except what I’ve read but what I do know is that his life was worth far more than being a gang-banger and a murderer. And it was certainly worth far more than taking his own life in a lonely jail cell before the age of thirty. So what really matters; what we all long to know deep inside our hearts is the answer to the question, How Much Are You Worth?

            I know this struggle and I’m prepared to speak truth to you about it even as I continue to learn how to accept that truth myself. You see, I grew up with a father who often referred to me as “worthless” or a “dumb jackass.” So I know exactly what it’s like to feel worthless and I know exactly what it’s like to sometimes make decisions because I believe I am worthless. I know some of you know the pain of this very well. Someone influential in your life has somehow convinced you that you are not worth much or maybe even worthless. Well I’m here to tell you that that’s a lie. You are valuable beyond measure not because you somehow convince yourself that you are or because I say so. You are valuable because God created you to be valuable and because God says you are valuable. So really the only question left to ask is this: How Much Are You Worth?

Subject Text

Matthew 10:26-31

            26“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.


            Context is always important. But it’s especially important in our Subject Text because it establishes the mindset of the disciples to whom Jesus was talking. In the verses leading up to our Subject Text, Jesus commissions the disciples to go out among the Jews and perform miracles; heal the sick, raise the dead, and drive out demons. More importantly, they were supposed to tell the people that the kingdom of heaven was near them—the kingdom of heaven was near them because Jesus, the King, was near them. What Jesus was saying, and what He wanted his disciples to understand, was the kingdom of heaven was wherever He was. You can imagine how excited the disciples were about their new commissioning—in modern parlance, they were going to be rock stars.

You can also imagine how quickly their excitement faded when Jesus told them that their commissioning, especially their kingdom message, would pit them against the religious leaders who will do anything necessary to try and silence them. They would be brought before the governing authories where they would be called to testify about their mission. Jesus tells them that they will be hated by everyone because of Him and that they should expect that even their own family members will turn against them. The disciples should not expect to be treated any better than Jesus had been and eventually would be treated. Not surprisingly, excitement turned to doubts and fear. Jesus says He’s sending them out like “sheep among wolves.” Be honest, does that sound like Jesus cares about the disciples? I wonder what it sounded like to the disciples—like the mission was more important than they were? Like they were expendable? Is that how you feel sometimes when all you’re trying to do is be a faithful follower of Christ—A good wife, a good husband, a good brother, a good sister, a good student, a good neighbor, a good friend—and what you get in return is a life or hardship and sorrow. It kind of feels like Jesus wants you to be faithful because it makes Him look good but it feels like that comes at your expense. It kind of feels like you’re expendable. It kind of makes you wonder How Much Are You Worth? Well I wonder if the disciples didn’t feel that way as well.

Text Analysis

            26“So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.

            The disciples are clearly concerned in vv. 26-27 about what awaits them when they head out on their new mission. Normally, you wouldn’t think this would be a big issue. You would think that people everywhere would welcome them. They are healing the sick, raising the dead, and driving out demons. They are announcing the Good News of God’s kingdom among them. Why would people hate them for that? Well to understand that, you have to stop thinking like a faithful follower of Christ and think like someone who is self-serving and refuses to give up on their sinful lifestyle. You have to think like the wife who cheats on her husband whenever he’s away on business. You have to think like the husband who would rather be away on business than at home caring for his wife and children. You have to think like the student who would rather cheat than study because she likes partying more than studying. You have to think like the guy who consistently cheats his employer out of countless work hours because he loves his three-martini lunches. You have to think like the religious leader who is more interested in the size of his budget and the weekly attendance than he is in transformed lives. For those people, the Good News that the disciples were preaching; that you are preaching with your transformed life, is a direct assault on their way of life.

If you’ve ever confronted someone about the destructive nature of the sin in their lives, then you probably have a pretty good idea what hate looks like. I promise you that if you are consistent in your lifestyle to be a faithful follower of Christ and you have the courage to preach the Good New of Jesus Christ, you will be hated for it. If so, it’s because the person who hates you wants desperately to hide their sins and hang on to their sinful lifestyles. But Jesus promises that nothing that people hide will be hidden forever. And no matter how hard people try to silence you or to marginalize your faithfulness, one day you will be proven right. One day all the lies people tell about you will be exposed for what they are. One day the real truth behind the lies will be exposed and everyone will be able to see that those who hated you really hated Jesus because all you were doing was being a faithful follower.

            Jesus never tried to hide anything. He healed people that needed healing, He confronted people with their sins, and He quickly forgave people who repented of their sins. He was bold and He wanted His disciples to be bold. He wasn’t sending them out on a “secret” mission. Instead, they were being sent out on a public mission and He expected them to be fearless about the message that the kingdom was near.

            “The disciples’ duty was to proclaim their message openly, and that proclamation would be the first casualty of a fear inspired by their opponents. The disciples’ duty is not merely the negative one of avoiding fear, but the positive one of bold proclamation in the face of opposition…What may need to remain secret for a time must ultimately be revealed…Good news is not meant to be kept under wraps, however little some people may wish to hear it. Even though for the time being Jesus’ teaching to the disciples has to be ‘in darkness,’ ‘into the ear,’ in the coming time of witness before governors and kings and of worldwide proclamation of the euangelion [Gk. “the gospel”] it must no longer be hidden. The flat roof of a Palestinian house was a place of rest and prayer, but also a very visible platform for proclamation to people in the street below.”[1]

28Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

            “Perspective.” The dictionary defines “perspective” as a way of looking at something. Jesus is giving the disciples, and by extension us, an eternal perspective in v. 28. Many of you know that fear is a powerful thing. I grew up in a house ruled by fear. My father’s method of persuasion was verbal and physical intimidation. If he couldn’t intimidate you verbally, he would do so physically. Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about because you too grew up in an abusive home or maybe you’re living in an abusive home now with an abusive mother or father. Or maybe you’re living with an abusive husband; or work for an abusive boss; or have to sit through class with an abusive teacher; or live in a country where Muslims regularly threaten you. Some of you have even been abused by your own pastor. In any case, the common denominator is manipulation and intimidation by fear.

Jesus offers a different perspective. He’s not saying that being a faithful follower of His isn’t scary or dangerous. No one wants to be hated and certainly no one wants to be killed for their faith. But Jesus is saying that there’s something worse than being hated and killed for what we believe or how we live our lives as faithful followers of Christ. Those who have the ability to kill you for your faith, as awful as that is, that’s all they can do. However, as I’ve told you and you already know intuitively, this life is not all there is to life. Our earthly lives, no matter how short or long they are, represent only a fraction of our lives in their entirety. After our lives are through on this earth as faithful followers of Christ, our lives of being together with Christ forever begin. And Jesus is the one who makes that eternal existence with Him possible. He is also the One who can condemn those who reject Him to another kind of eternity—an eternity separated from Him; an eternity in hell. What Jesus is trying to say is if you’re going to fear anything, you should fear that. However, faithful followers of Christ don’t have to fear that eternity because we will spend eternity with Him.

            “Fear of persecution is the fear of bodily harm and death. But Jesus helped his disciples shift their focus. He told them, in essence, ‘Do not worry about your body. It is expendable. Concern yourself, instead, with the condition of your soul-life, which is eternal, and which, invested rightly now, returns great rewards.’ A believer who adopts this perspective will not be afraid of those who can kill the body but will fear God, the Lord who has authority as judge to condemn the soul and the body to eternal destruction in hell. This healthy fear of God will cause a person to live by obedience, respecting the authority and power of the judge.”[2]

29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

            I know I can’t be the only one who has screamed or cried the prayer to God wondering if He sees what’s going on in my life. Maybe you’re more reserved than I am but in the middle of the storms of my life, I have often wondered if God sees. And if He does see, does He care? After a while, when the pain is bad enough, or the grief is deep enough or depression is dark enough and God has still not intervened in your time of need, you begin to wonder if maybe God thinks you’re just not worth it. Maybe that’s never happened to you. If not, you are very fortunate. I’m guess though that most of you are like me and you’ve been there more than once. You might even be in that place right now—you’ve been crying out to God for so long without any relief that you can’t help but wonder if God just doesn’t think you’re worth it.

            Jesus is very clear in vv. 29-31 that not only does God see everything, He is fully in control of everything. This text can be a little confusing. What exactly is Jesus saying about our value in relation to the value of a sparrow? Well nothing really. What Jesus is saying is that sparrows are cheap. Sparrows were sold in bulk in the marketplace as a food source for those who couldn’t afford anything else. Here’s the important point Jesus is trying to make: Even though a sparrow is small, common, unimportant, and cheap. Nevertheless, Jesus tells us, not a single sparrow will fall to the ground without God’s care. The NIV adds the word “care” but that’s not exactly how it reads in the Greek. Instead, the Greek reads, “Are not two sparrows sold for an assarion (an assarion was a small Roman brass coin of very little value)? Yet not one will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” I like that translation so much better because it illustrates that nothing, not even the death of a common, unimportant, and cheap little bird occurs apart from God’s sovereignty; apart from God’s knowledge; apart from God’s will; apart from God’s care. And here’s the heart of what Jesus is trying to teach us, if God can be bothered by the life of a sparrow imagine what He thinks of you—someone who has been created in His image? That’s right, you and I are God’s image bearers. Now you may feel uncomfortable with that distinction (I know I often do) but that doesn’t make it any less true.

            Jesus wants to make it very clear that nothing, nothing, nothing escapes God attention. God knows every intricate detail about your life—even down to the last hair on your head. He sees everything and knows everything and nothing is out of His control even though it seems like it sometimes. There is nothing you can do; nothing you are going through that catches God off guard. Keep in mind that just because it doesn’t appear that God is doing anything about your struggle doesn’t mean He is unaware of your struggle. It doesn’t even mean that He’s not doing anything about it only that you are unaware of what He is doing. For example, what if He is using your struggle to stretch your faith in Him? What if He is using your struggle to demonstrate to someone else what faithfulness under pressure looks like? What if He is using your struggle to point someone to Jesus? Think about that in the context this lesson’s title—How Much Are You Worth? You’re worth so much that nothing can possibly happen to you apart from your Father who might just be using you to lead someone to eternal life in Jesus Christ! How about that for perspective!

            “This awesome God whom we are to fear is also the God who cares about the smallest sparrow. When we fear him, we have nothing to worry about because he loves us…Sparrows were not of high value in the world—a penny could buy two of them. Yet God is so concerned for them that not one falls to the ground without God’s consent. That God knows the number of the very hairs on our heads shows his concern about the most trifling details about each of us. Because God is aware of everything that happens to sparrows, and because he knows every tiny detail about us, Jesus concludes that his followers need never be afraid. Sparrows will fall to the ground; God’s people will die, sometimes by martyrdom. Yet we are so valuable that God sent Jesus, his only Son, to die for us. Because God places such value on us, we need never fear personal threats or difficult trials.”[3]


            What was Jesus teaching His disciples and us in this lesson? Very simply that we are highly valued and don’t have to be afraid to be faithful followers of Christ even if it means our death because nothing happens to us apart from God’s perfect sovereignty. There you go! Does that help you? Probably not because it doesn’t answer the question, How Much Are You Worth? Well you’re worth more than two sparrows; more than one cent! So does that mean you’re worth ten sparrows; a hundred sparrows; a thousand sparrows? Well at a thousand sparrows you’d be worth all of five dollars. No, Jesus had to mean a value so significant that it would leave no doubt in our minds how much we are valued. When you have to endure being sick yet another day, there has to be a way for you to know that you don’t have to deal with your illness apart from your Father. When depression feels like it’s crushing the life out of you, there has to be a way for you to know that you don’t have to endure the darkness apart from your Father. When your divorce is finalized and you feel like you’re lost there has to be a way to know that you’re never alone because you are never apart from your Father. When your husband or your wife or your mom or your dad treats you as though you don’t exist, there has to be a way for you to know that you are never ignored because you are never apart from your Father. When addiction feels like it has a strangle hold on your life, there has to be a way of knowing that you have been set free because you are never apart from the Father.

Is there a way for us to know with certainty that we are never apart from the Father; that we belong to Him; that He paid for us? That seems to be the key. If you knew how much He paid for you then you’d know the answer to the question, How Much Are You Worth? I thought long and hard to come up with a way to show you and this is what I came up with:

[1] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), 402-403.
[2] Stuart K. Weber, Matthew, (Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing Group, 2000), 147-148.
[3] Bruce Barton, Philip Comfort, Grant Osborne, Linda K. Taylor, and Dave Veerman, Life Application New Testament Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 51-52.

(Audio version; Music: "How Will I Know" & "How Deep The Father's Love For Us" by: WorshipMob)