The 2011 film Moneyball is about the 2002 Oakland Athletics baseball club. General Manager Billy Beane used statistics to scout talent, choose players, and turn a losing team around. Due to their limited budget, they turned to overlooked and undervalued players. Players discarded due to age, defects, and personality. They assembled an island of misfits. And in one stretch during the season, the team won 20 games in a row, setting a major league record. The A’s won the American League West with a record of 103-59 before being defeated in the American League Division series.
Our core emotional need is to feel valued. How we perceive our value and worth is incredibly important. Self-worth is defined as “the sense of one’s value or worth as a person.” Self-worth, or the lack of it, is at the root of all positive and negative behavior. There is nothing more critical than self-worth in determining success or failure.
How much are you worth? Typically, in response to the question, we think of money, don’t we? We start doing a mental calculation of our net worth or what’s in our bank account. Or we start listing the schools we attended and our degrees? Or we detail our work experience, certifications, or credentials. Or we highlight where we live, what we drive, where we vacation. Or we look at physical appearance, age, or ability.
The problem with determining value this way is that we always come up short. Someone will always have more degrees, more credentials, a bigger house. Our looks will fade, our hairline will recede, and our waistline will expand. Someone faster, stronger, and bigger will break our records. And if we don’t have the right look, or have achieved the right level of success, or the right amount of money in our portfolio, well, then we aren’t of much value.
I suggest that we base our value on a different perspective.
A student in architecture entered a nationwide contest for building design. Judged by a panel of architects, her plan received Honorable Mention. She was utterly depressed. She believed she had the best design. At lunch on the last day of the convention, she sat over her uneaten sandwich, looking at her creation. An older man was looking at it too. At last, he remarked, not knowing who had designed the building, “This one, I think, is the best of the lot.” Judges had merely given her work Honorable Mention, but one older man had like it. The young student went home elated. Why? Because the older man was Frank Lloyd Wright, probably the greatest architect of the time.
When the authority tells us something, we can count on it. God is the authority on who we are.
The Bible repeatedly underscores our value, and Psalm 139 presents the most reasonable and compelling argument for our worth and the value God places on us.
David wrote Psalm 139. In this psalm, David appears to write after considering the greatness of God in his life. David has a renewed awareness of God’s remarkable character. David wove together his understanding of God’s omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence as it relates to him as a person.
So rather than looking at culture, comparing ourselves with others, or listing our credentials, let’s look to the ultimate authority on how much we are worth.
- You are known. (vv. 1-6)
God knows you. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me” (v. 1). The word know reveals the intimate knowledge of a person that results from a close, personal relationship. It reflects the way that the Lord knows us. God knows us as we are. Nothing about your life is hidden from God. God is involved in the affairs of your life.
This text reveals that God knows your activities, thoughts, ways, words, and needs. “You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me” (v. 5). This statement paints a picture of someone being enfolded back and front by the Lord, who has absolute power to completely control and protect him or her. God encircles you on every side like a mighty army devoted to protecting you. God knows your needs. He knows when you need safeguarding and protection. His hand, symbolic of God’s power, is upon you. He goes before us and behind us. He keeps us secure. God’s protection leaves us with no way of escape. You can never run away from the Lord.
David marveled at the Lord’s comprehensive knowledge and awareness of him. Such intimate knowledge was staggering to David. David can’t wrap his mind around the reality that the Lord, so lofty and transcendent, has taken such an intense and intimate interest in him. It blows his mind that the Lord of creation demonstrates a personal and sincere interest in a single human being.
God knows us because he values us. What we value, we know. I love my wife; therefore, I know her. I value my daughter; therefore, I know her. I value the Bible, so I get to know it. I value my business; consequently, I want to know my clients and their needs. You could say the same thing about those who value 67 Mustangs, horses, coin collection, or artwork. They have an insatiable hunger to know more about those things they value.
And, when we are known, we experience value. Have you ever walked into a crowded event where no one knows You? How did it make you feel? On the other hand, have you ever walked into a party where you are known, or better yet, the party was for you? With God, you are the center of his attention.
2. You are a marvelous creation. (vv. 13-14)
The Psalmist wrote: “For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made.Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well” (Psalm 139:13-14).
The Psalmist likened God’s artistic process to a weaver forming and fashioning a prized work of art. The word you in verse 13 is emphatic. It stands at the beginning of the Hebrew sentence for prominence. David marveled at God’s incredible power and His creative process in fashioning him. And so should you.
No two of God’s creations are alike. Each is different. Since the beginning of time, billions of people have lived on earth, but there has never been, and there never will be another you. You are a rare, exclusive, diverse, and unique being. This rarity, like an original painting, gives you enormous value. You are a one-of-a-kind magnum opus. You are God’s masterpiece.
True, somebody will always be better than you at certain things. But no one has your combination of talents, ideas, abilities, and feelings. Like a room full of musical instruments, some may excel alone, but none can match the symphony sound when all are played together. Your personality, passion, and purpose come together to make beautiful music. You are God’s symphony.
Often, it isn’t easy to display your uniqueness. Society wants everyone to look, think, and act alike. Tension always exists between conformity and originality. “Don’t be different,” screams in one ear while “I wanna be me” counters in the other. A fine line creeps in between weird and unique. What are you to do? Display your uniqueness. Be yourself. Use your God-given bents. You are God’s workmanship.
Are you not the marvelous creation of all—able to think, feel, change your environment, and love? Why do you try to be someone else when there is no one like you? Why do you let another take away your individuality? (No one can unless you allow them.) You are God’s miracle.
Saint Augustine was right. “Men go abroad to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vastness of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” Don’t make that mistake.
Remember Who created you. You are God’s prized work of art, his magmas opus, his major accomplishment. And don’t let anyone take that fact from you.
3. You are thought of continually. (vv. 17-18)
The Psalmist added, “How precious also are Thy thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with Thee” (Psalm 139:17-18). The Almighty God, the Master of the Universe, the King of kings, thinks of you continually. And it is not just a passing thought, but his thoughts of you are innumerable. God is not too busy for you. You are on his mind.
God has always been thinking of you. Before birth, during birth, through childhood, into adolescence, and on through adulthood. He never stops thinking of you.
God is our divine parent. If you have children, you understand why and how he can think of us continually. The immensity of God’s thought did not dawn on me until my daughter was born. Before her birth, she was on my mind. After her birth, I would hold her, looking at her precious face. I could not wait to get home from work to see her beautiful smile. I responded when she cried. I was attentive to her needs. I protected her. Now that she is grown and living far away, she is still in my thoughts.
If I would think of my child so frequently, how much more would our Heavenly Father think of us.
Why would God know us intimately, fashion us masterfully, and think of us continually? Because . . .
- You are loved.
I’m convinced that all of us are looking for a kind of distinctiveness as we seek worth. We want to be unique. We want to be more than just another homeowner on the block or a cog in the machinery wheel at work. We want others to care about us—personally and individually. We each want to be loved.
Being loved is at the core of our being. Without love, we will never be complete and fulfilled.
Margery Williams goes to the heart of this human hunger in her classic children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit. Williams pictures the stuffed toys talking among themselves to learn the secret of becoming “real.” For my purposes here, I want to change a few words in her story.
“How much are you worth?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside of you and stick-out handle?”
“Worth isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with but really loves you, then you become valuable.”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are valuable, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are of value you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Our worth and value are primarily dependent on who we love and who loves us. We think all those things that will increase our value—money, jobs, success, status—will eventually fade away. What lasts for eternity is love—love for God, others, and self. It’s love, deep and genuine love, that makes us valuable.
Never forget that God knows you, made you, thinks of you, and loves you. You are of incredible value.
You are loved genuinely. You are thought of continually. You are formed skillfully. You are known personally. Yet many people still feel hurt in their hearts, an ache in their souls. They are still desperately searching for their worth. They don’t seem to grasp their worth and value from God’s perspective. They still think that if they climb the ladder of success, get a more prominent promotion, own a larger house, increase their bank account, they will be valued. When any of those scaffolds are knocked down, they are demoralized emotionally and flounder around physically.
It reminds me of a man that came to finish a repair job on my house. He told me that he had been down on his luck earlier in his adult life—out of a job, and his wife had left him. Desperate, he visited a church service. The preacher took out a $100 bill in the sermon and asked if anyone would take it. Everyone raised their hand. He then rolled it up in a ball, crushing it, and asked if anyone wanted it now. They all said, “Yes.” Then, he tore it. Does anyone want it now? Every hand went up. He then threw it on the floor and stomped on it. Anyone want it now? “Yes,” came the thunderous reply. “Why,” the preacher asked. One person voiced the apparent reason, “Because it doesn’t matter what you do with it, it’s still worth a hundred dollars.”
“And, such is the value of a person,” retorted the preacher. “It doesn’t matter if you have been crushed, broken, ripped apart, and stomped on. In God’s economy, you are of incredible worth and value.”
With glistening eyes, the repairman said, “That $100 bill represented me. Upon understanding my value to God, he changed me. That story changed my life.”
If one lives long enough, they are bruised, hurt, stomped, and crushed. We will be overlooked and undervalued, like a misfit amid a sea of perfect and polished people. Despite it all, we are valuable to the God who made us. We are of extreme worth.