Are people worthless?

I once heard a preacher talk for two hours straight about how worthless he was and about how worthless everyone in the congregation was without Christ. He also said that he – and we – were not worth Christ’s sacrifice. By the end of the sermon I was asking myself if it was true. Does God see us as worthless? Does my worth drastically improve the moment I accept Christ?

I then began thinking about the parables of Jesus, particularly those of the Lost Coin and the Pearl of Great Price. These parables depict people who are going to great lengths to search for something. In the church we often interpret the parables of the lost coin and the pearl of great price as how we, as humans, should respond to the Kingdom of God. I think these are good interpretations.

However, what if we were to look at these parables as how God responds to us? If we were a valuable lost coin, God would ransack the house looking for us. If we were an extremely valuable pearl that God found he would literally sell everything he owned to buy us and to make sure that we were safe from others who wanted to buy us. In reality, God did this. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8, NIV). Does that sound like we human beings — either believers or pre-believers — are worthless?

A few years ago my denomination revised its hymn book. In that revision, one hymn that had the line “for such a worm as I,” was changed to “for sinners such as I.” As a traditionalist I was upset about this at first. I like the original form of songs, but when I began to think about the change, I realized that the denomination had a point.

A worm is defined as an unfortunate or unhappy person; a despicable or contemptible person. It is true that we can be these things as sinners, but are all sinners like this? No. Some people who don’t know God do good things and some are even happy. If we are honest, all of us, believers and pre-believers alike, must admit that we have issues. This is because we were born in a fallen world under the curse of sin. I hardly think that this condemns the human race to a state of worthlessness. If we were, God would have wiped us off the planet eons ago rather than sending his only son to die for us.

The church would do well to take a more positive view of humanity. Yes, human beings have definite problems. We can even be despicable; some are evil. However, most of us spend our weeks getting beaten down. No one wants to go to church and hear that they are worthless. The church should be saying that although everyone is a sinner, Jesus died for us at just the right time even before we believed in him. The preacher that started this thought process was dead wrong. Jesus obviously not only thought we had worth, he thought that we were worth dying for.