As men, we tend to get our sense of worth from our achievements and accomplishments. We hope to find meaning in life from our work. But all too often, we get stuck in a job that we either hate or just tolerate. When that happens, we look for meaning in other places like a hobby, a recreational activity, or worse yet—something harmful.
I’ve known men who go through the workweek like robots. Then on the weekend they come alive at the lake, or playing a sport, running, or participating in some other activity. That replacement activity may even be noble.
We may look for a sense of worth in serving on the board of some non-profit or by volunteering at our church or other humanitarian organization.
Regardless of the focus, however, the idea that we should get our sense of worth by what we do or accomplish is misplaced. There are many things wrong with relying on our achievements for self-worth:
- When is enough, enough?
- Who’s the judge of what’s good enough?
- How do we really know what constitutes a satisfactory or great achievement?
- By what measure are we gauging our accomplishments?
- We sacrifice other important things (like family) in order to meet our goals.
- An accomplishment-based system flies in the face of the Gospel and our relationship with God.
- Achievement-based living is a non-relational approach to life.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus told a very interesting parable that gets at the root of what I’m talking about. It’s the parable of the sheep and goats. He begins the parable:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
Jesus then addresses both groups, starting with the sheep on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Then, He lists all the noble things they’ve done in serving Him and others.
But the “sheep” are puzzled by this and ask, “Lord, when did we do all those things?” And Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.”
Then, Jesus turns to the “goats” on His left, “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” And again, He lists all the things the “goats” did not do. As before, the goats are puzzled by this and ask, “Lord, when did we not do those things?” To which Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me.”
Now, you might be thinking, “That sure sounds like reward for accomplishment to me!” But here’s the key: Jesus separated them by their identity before He commended or chastised them for their actions. Sheep are sheep and goats are goats. Jesus separated them by who they were, not what they had done.
This is strengthened by the fact that neither the sheep nor the goats were aware of their actions. The reason for this again goes back to their identity, because sheep do “sheep things,” and goats do “goat things.”
The point of all this is that we need to find our sense of worth in our identity, not in our achievements. Who are we? “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And this is what we are!” (1 John 3:1)
If you’ve placed your faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross for you, then you are a child of God. That’s your identity. Can there be any greater sense of worth than being a child of Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of all that exists?
Stay tuned for Part 2…