Wealth vs. Worth

The deepest longing of the human soul is the desire to be worthy, the desire to matter, the desire to be loved.

However, popular culture has prescribed material flourishing as the end goal of our lives. From a young age we’re taught to get a great job, make lots of money, and retire comfortably.

As a husband, father, and provider, this hits me in the throes of life’s greatest struggle. And, as I continue to talk with people from all walks of life, it seems to be an epidemic plaguing our culture.

Wealth versus Worth

The world would tell us that the first equals the second; if we’re wealthy, then we have great worth. However, loneliness and misery plague the rich and poor alike.

In religious circles, you may hear the opposite. Verses like, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” give us the picture that wealth is bad or unimportant. We hear, “Just trust in the Lord and don’t be afraid.” Trusting in the Lord and not being afraid is great lip service, but when you have bills to pay and responsibilities to keep, it’s easy to see which we choose.

So often, when we don’t feel the worth that we long for, we settle for the pursuit of wealth as a cheap replacement.

I know. I’m guilty as charged.

Just this morning, I was packing for an upcoming trip to Nashville where I will have the opportunity to connect with some accomplished authors and speakers. I found myself in an interesting position. I would be the new guy. The desire to impress and the desire to belong is very real in my mind. I caught myself thinking about my clothes, making sure my best shirts were clean and pressed.

Maybe if I dress good enough, look sharp enough, they’ll think I’m worthy.

Do you ever feel this same pressure?

There’s a great story from the book of Luke that gives us a clearer picture.

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Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

Jesus replied, “Man, who appointed me a judge between you?” Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kind of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.

Luke 12:13-15

We all know that guy, right? The one who pipes up in a crowd and asks the asinine question. In some cases, the question is completely off-base and the rest of us roll our eyes, but in some instances, the guy takes the words right out of your mouth. In this story, I think the latter is true.

Jesus is teaching a crowd of many thousands, so large that they began trampling each other just trying to get close to Him. As the crowds listen intently to His words, Jesus begins to speak. Just before He’s rudely interrupted, Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of the things that can kill the body, but rather, things that can kill the soul.” He continues, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are numbered. Don’t be afraid, you are worth more than sparrows.” (vs. 4-7)

Jesus is speaking to these people about worth. The kind of worth in which fear disappears and your value is found in the eyes of your Creator.

Then, that guy pipes up.

Rabbi, all of this worth stuff is great, but will you tell my brother to give me my money.

This man, not understanding true worth, begins asking about wealth.

When the desire for worth is questioned, we immediately go to our next option—attention. Most notably found in material possessions.

I dare say this internal struggle fuels the majority of overspending in our culture today. And it’s an epidemic that we need to vaccinate.

Jesus gives us the cure.

We are to see ourselves with His eyes.

Blankets and Love

Each one of my boys has a blanket. It’s a small, diamond-shaped, love-worn piece of cloth with an animal’s head at the top. MJ has his bear, Wyatt has his bunny, and Greyson has a dinosaur. These boys know their blankets. Even in the pitch black of their room, if you hand them the wrong blanket, they know.

Heaven forbid we ever lose a blanket. Nap time and bedtime are contingent upon the presence of this treasured, sacred, ten-dollar accessory. There have been times when we have driven home from date night, turned over furniture, and dug through the floorboard of our minivan to find, a blanket.

And here’s what you’ll never understand. To you, it’s just a blanket. However, in the eyes of the one who loves it, the blanket is so much more.

I believe that’s how it is to God. Oftentimes we fail to see ourselves through the eyes of the One who died for us. We fail to remember how valuable we are to Him.

In other parables Jesus speaks of lost coins and sheep and the pursuit to find just one.

Settling for some other form of attention or flattery is like trying to give my boys the wrong blanket. It’s a far cry from the real thing.

So, I believe the solution to solving the Wealth versus Worth epidemic we face is to begin seeing ourselves through the eyes of the One who loves us.

We don’t have to choose, we’ve already been chosen.

“You are worth more…O you of little faith…seek His kingdom…and these things will be given to you as well.”

Luke 12

QUESTION: Have you ever felt trapped in the wealth vs. worth struggle?

CHALLENGE: How can you help someone see their worth today?

 

This post is part of the Surviving Saturday devotional series at MattHam.com. If you found it helpful or encouraging, please consider sharing it with others.

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  • Steven Tessler

    Wealth vs Worth…. We live in an old section of town and less then half a mile away from us are homes ranging in the 500K range. I have to drive through these homes every day to work and always wonder what are these people doing to live here?

    I then drive up to my home and I love it!! It’s average size. On a 1/4 acre of land. The mortgage is cover with my retirement. Perfect!

    I feel trapped in this struggle because I sometimes feel that I’d love to live in one of those expensive homes but what would I have to give up to do so?

    Today we are traveling to Jeffersonville, IN to see a friend that just returned after a year in Africa. She’s in the Navy. I can’t wait to see her! She’s making a sacrifice for our country by leaving her family behind to serve. Her husband is also in the Navy.

    • micki

      Steven, I deliver newspapers to those homes (at least in my area I do) and I know that a LOT of the people who live in those homes are STRUGGLING to keep them, or they are upside down or they are already being foreclosed on. Some of them are ok, but even then, I think, why would I want something that big that I need to keep clean and kept up? I have a hard enough time with the small space I have now 😀 I spent a year in Turkey and I think when I came back I realized I don’t really want more stuff than I can take care of and use. If I’m not using it, let me give it to someone who will use it and love it. If you love your place now, keep loving it 🙂 You are worth more than many sparrows! 🙂

      • Steven Tessler

        You’re right!! Many of them are in tons of debt. I love the idea of a small house also!!

        Andy Andrews says on his podcast that he wouldn’t want a larger home because it would be a farther walk to the bathroom!!

        Traveling overseas I to saw how many lived with far less then I have.

        To this day I try to stay away from stuff.

        Thanks for replying to my comment Micki!!

        • micki

          sure 🙂 i think Andy Andrews has the right idea! Glad to find someone else who thinks small is good 🙂

      • Love this conversation!

  • micki

    so i need to think of myself as God’s dinosaur blanket? (just kidding, but it kind of struck me as funny) wealth is easier than worth some days, especially when one is in the service industry. If you provide a service for someone, you can get your worth from what you do for them and how they appreciate it, not only in the form of money. The praise they give can also be as addictive as the money in its own weird way. But maybe i will think of myself as God’s dinosaur blanket (or at least the sheep that kept wandering off that He kept coming to find) and that will put more of the wealth vs. worth struggle into balance.

    • Great throughts, Micki. And yes, we are His affection. The objects of His love and Glory!

      What type of service work do you provide?

      • micki

        Well my main job is delivering newspapers, but I also mow lawns and walk/sit pets and basically anything else anyone wants me to do. I am currently studying to become an interpreter for the Deaf and am hoping that this will be my main gig in a few years.

        • Very cool, thanks for sharing, Micki.

  • Matt- my father was a Judge who worked in San Francisco with several other Judges. He often reflected on how many of his associates focused on money, nice cars, etc. His favorite person to hang out with was his barber, Pat,who had a small shop in town. Pat loved his customers, could talk about any subject, and was a very happy man despite his modest income. In many ways I think Pat had more self worth than a lot of those Judges.

    • John-
      I love that story and I would love to meet Pat. I can’t begin to imagine the depth of some of those conversations. Thanks for sharing!

  • Love this Matt. Thanks for sharing this important piece.

  • Whitney Treloar

    Yes! I still find myself believing that what’s necessary to be successful in life is an education, a good job, financial stability, wealth, success and retirement. Not only do I still believe it (thanks mom and dad), but I find myself teaching my kids that I believe it, and that I am a failure for not having yet achieved it. Like, today. Like, right now. I’m endorsing it right now. UGH!! I KNOW better, yet I don’t. If I did KNOW better, I’d be teaching and modeling better. There is nothing wrong with these things, obviously. It is so difficult to put the things of GOD in the front, especially THESE things. This is our culture. This is the GOD of our culture (wealth, worth). Thank you for placing this right up front in my consciousness today.

    • Yes, Whitney! It’s time to refurbish the American Dream. Stay tuned for this week’s post. I think you’ll like it 😉