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I’ve been praycessing an incident that left me feeling worth less.
But definitely worth less.
I wasn’t chosen, which feels much like being discarded.
If only I’d done more…
The Worthy Man & the Mourning Widow
Last week, I saw something in the story of Jesus raising the widow’s son that I’ve never seen before.
Because I’m moseying my way through Luke—reading and re-reading and reflecting on a bit of it each morning — I read this story in context.
Here’s what happens first:
After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave.
When they came to Jesus, they appealed to him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy of having you do this for him, for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.”
And Jesus went with them, but when he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.”
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” When those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the slave in good health. (Luke 7:1-10, NRSV)
Notice what the elders of the Jews say about the Centurion?
“He is worthy of having you do this for him, for … “
The leaders of the community deem the Centurion a Worthy Man.
“…he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us.”
According to these influencers, the Centurian is a Worthy Man because of what he has done for the Jews.
According to these influencers, the Centurian has earned his worth.
Me and My Bad Attitude
Gotta pause the story for a true confession, here.
I’ve always resented popular people. So my gut reaction is to resent this guy.
You’re loving and giving and humble, too? Well goody goody gumdrops for you…
The Humble Worthy Man
Despite what the Jewish leaders have told Christ, the Centurian sends a servant to tell him,
Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; therefore I did not presume to come to you. But only speak the word, and let my servant be healed…. (Luke 7:6-7, NRSV)
Others may label him a Worthy Man, but he does not embrace that label.
No wonder Christ is “amazed at him”!
The Mourning Widow
After healing the Worthy Man’s servant, Christ encounters his opposite: a Mourning Widow.
Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town.
When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still.
And he said, “Young man, I say to you, rise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has risen among us!” and “God has looked favorably on his people!” (Luke 7:11-16, NRSV)
The Centurian had community leaders falling overthemselves to vouch for his character, his worthiness.
This woman has no one.
She is surrounded by a large crowd of mourners, but she has lost her sense of worth.
She’s lost her sources of worth: First, her husband; now, her son.
And here’s where I saw something I’d never noticed before.
Watch how Jesus responds to a woman who feels worth less:
“…he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’.”
The NIV says,
“When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry’.”
Jesus’ first response is empathy.
- He feels what she feels.
- He understands.
- He gets her.
Jesus becomes the influencer who champions her cause.
Who demonstrates, though His actions, that she is worth-while.
Worth His time.
Worth bringing hope, restoring life.
How Jesus Responds to Me
As I wrestle with feeling worth less, Jesus responds to me with empathy.
- Not judgment or ridicule.
- Not “Suck it up, Buttercup!”
- Not any of the myriad Christian cliches I’ve heard all my life (but never once been helped by.)
And He gently pushes me to re-examine my attitude toward the Centurion.
There’s something more in this story I still need to see.
I’ve been so busy resenting the Centurion for being everything I can’t possibly be — loving and generous and humble — that I’ve missed what actually amazed Jesus.
My first response when I feel worth less is to perform, to earn my worth: If only I’d done more…
The Centurion, however, recognized the truth: Our achievements are unrelated to our worth.
I don’t know what you might be battling right now.
Perhaps, like me, you’re wrestling with feeling worth less.
Here are the two truths I’m going to be reminding myself throughout the day:
- Everything you lose doesn’t make you worth less.
- Nothing you do makes you worth more.
Your worth comes from the One whose first response to you is always empathy.