In the Bible, Jesus responded to a question about who God values most by telling a story about a lost sheep.
What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. – Matthew 18:12-14 NIV
The main point of this parable is that God would do whatever it took to save even one soul. But…what if that one soul was you or I. I have talked with people who believe God would save one soul…unless that one was their own. They feel that they aren’t worthy of His doing that for them. Consider these questions:
How much do I figure I’m worth?
What determines my worth?
Many people get their idea of their own worth from the opinions of others. If others approve of me, I must be okay. If they disapprove of me, I must not be okay. This thinking outsources assigning my worth to other people, who can be extremely fickle. The roller-coaster ride this takes you on ends up being: When I’m in the presence of someone who is approving of me I can be okay with myself. If that person changes their mind about me, then I’m not okay with myself. This is a very uncertain way to live.
Certainly, a sheep who strays should not have their straying approved of, but should I base my worth on other people’s approval?
Besides outsourcing our value to others, people also often get their idea of their own worth from their perceived accomplishments. If I’ve succeeded, I have worth. If I’ve failed, I have no worth. A sheep who has strayed away from the shepherd and cannot find his way to the fold is a failure. (By the way, failure isn’t a person; failure is only an event that happens to you.)
Unfortunately, that person who feels they are unworthy of the shepherd coming to save them is exactly right. In fact, none of us are worthy of God seeking us out. That is where grace comes in.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:6 NIV
We have all strayed, but the guilt of our wandering has been placed on Jesus. And just like the Bible is clear (and not fickle) about our accomplishments (the straying), it’s also clear about personal worth.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. – Romans 12:3
We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. To say that, is not to say that we must think we are scum, but rather, we are to use serious judgment in assessing ourselves. The prophet Isaiah puts it another way:
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. – Isaiah 64:6 NIV
How encouraging is that? My best is like filthy rags. I am despicable in my own righteousness. You are also despicable in your own righteousness. I’m despicable. You’re despicable. We are all equally despicable compared to God’s righteousness. Not one of us is more despicable than anyone else.
Keep reading. The Bible also says:
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14 NIV
God crafted you into the person you are. You are a wonderful work of God. As a special creation of God, each of us has worth. But, none of us is worth more than anyone else.
We are each equally despicable and equally a wonderful work of God.
This owner of 100 sheep is not satisfied with 99% of his flock. One is lost. This one is not where he is supposed to be. He has done wrong. He has not followed his shepherd as he should. We are all that one. Your worth is not determined by the good you have done or by the bad you have done. Your worth is set by how much your shepherd values you even in your need. Your Creator spent what He valued most (His Son, Jesus) to pay for your redemption…to find you when you were lost. How much are you worth? You are worth God’s best, spent just for you.
For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. – I Peter 1:18-19 NIV
I was enslaved to sin and unfit to have a relationship with my Creator. So were you. In an indescribable act of grace, God bought our freedom. The price He paid is the life of His Son.
…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. – Matthew 20:28
YOU are worth God’s absolute best!
The parable of the lost sheep is about the value of one individual. Your value is not based on your opinion of yourself, nor is it based on anyone else’s opinion of you. Your value is not based on your accomplishments. Your value is based on the worth put in you by your Creator through the price He paid to restore your relationship with Him. When a person is saved, heaven rejoices! God celebrates that His sheep that was lost is now safely in the fold.