Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.Matthew 10:38
I chose the title (un)Worthy because it embodies two ideas that are important to Jesus. On one hand, we are expected to live a life worthy of the gospel, and on the other, we are expected to consider ourselves unworthy of Jesus. Up until now, I have emphasized the meaning and importance of the word unworthy. We will now shift to what is meant by the word worthy.
Phil 1:27 contains this exhortation from Paul to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” What does this mean? As I have written earlier, we are supposed to live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ, yet at the same time consider ourselves unworthy of Jesus.
In Matthew 10:37, Jesus says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Jesus is saying here that He requires us to consider Him to be our greatest treasure and the object of our greatest affections. We are expected to value Him and our relationship with Him more than any other person. If our relationship with others is more important to us than our relationship with Jesus, we are not worthy of Jesus.
Think about that for a minute. We have already established in the first three chapters that Jesus approves those who view themselves as unworthy of Jesus. Yet, He is saying in Matthew 10 that if we love others more than Him, we are not worthy of Him. In order to be worthy of Him, we need to love Him more than anyone else. But, He also wants us to consider ourselves as unworthy of Him. This is a challenge—I urge you not to gloss over these words. Take some time to look at the passages in Scripture that I have already referenced in this chapter and the previous chapters, and discover for yourself what Jesus is requiring of His followers.
In order to live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, we are expected to love Jesus, admire Jesus, desire Jesus, and have our greatest affections directed towards Jesus. We are expected to treasure Him above everything else, and this is how we live in a manner worthy of the gospel.
However, all throughout Scripture we read that no one is righteous or can become righteous enough to be found worthy of God. Due to our very nature as sinful humans, we cannot become worthy based on our own merit.
How, then, should we understand (un)worthiness? 1 Corinthians 11:27 helps us out: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.”
Do you see the way Paul uses the word unworthy in this passage? Underlying this statement is a high view of the Lord’s Supper. Communion is a precious sacrament, which is to be honoured and cherished, and should not be taken lightly. Therefore, we are expected to take part in communion in a way that shows how valuable it is.
Philippians 1:27 uses the word worthy in a similar way. “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This verse could also be interpreted as such: Live in a way that proves the value of the gospel of Christ. Do you see yet what worthy means?
To live a life worthy of the gospel, we need to live in a way that proves how valuable the gospel is! This manner of thinking has nothing to do with our own merit, or about earning anything—it has all to do with our recognition and acknowledgement of the value of Jesus. It is about cherishing what we were given freely, without merit.
As we forget ourselves, and as we focus on Jesus, we will begin to demonstrate, with our actions, our thoughts, and our words, the infinite value of Jesus. To show the worth of Jesus is to say with Paul, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain,” (Phil. 1:21) and, “all things on earth are counted as loss for the sake of Christ” (Phil 3:7). The call of Jesus is a call to live in a way that demonstrates how much the gospel is worth.
When we begin to see Jesus as infinitely more valuable than ourselves or anyone or anything else we could possible enjoy in life, we will begin to live a life that simultaneously shows our unworthiness and our worthiness. Next, we will see how this will become fruitful, so that our (un)worthiness becomes contagious.