Monday, September 17, 2012

Worthless People

How can I be so cold as to say that there are worthless people? Ask an infantryman and he'd tell you that for sure, there are people in this world who are just plain evil and serve no good purpose whatsoever. It sure does help to know that the enemy he's fighting against has no inherent "good" in them when he takes him out. He's following commands to bring about a peaceful end, and because of this, he doesn't have to wrestle with taking out someone good, or, at least not right away while he's on the mission. But taking this a step further, into the Bible, is it unloving to call a person worthless, especially since we are all made in God's image? Does being made in His image credit us instantly with an amount of worth? And if so, what is that worth? If we're worth anything, it would be unfair and unjust for a 'good God' to send someone of value to hell, right?

Yes, it would be unfair for a good God to send valuable/good/worthy people to Hell, and it would be unfair and inconsistent for an evil god to send bad/wicked/unworthy people to Heaven. Either scenario would throw logic to the wayside and commit the very basic logical fallacy of calling evil, good, and good, evil. Straight out, people commit this fallacy every day.

I sought to figure out today what it would look like for someone of the belief that all people have worth and are good to come across God's description of sinners in the Old Testament. I found Bible verses that actually call people worthless. (Need to read that one again?)

Judges 20:13
Now therefore give up the men, the worthless fellows in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and purge evil from Israel.” But the Benjaminites would not listen to the voice of their brothers, the people of Israel.

1 Samuel 2:12
[ Eli's Worthless Sons ] Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the LORD.

1 Samuel 25:25
Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent.

1 Samuel 30:22
Then all the wicked and worthless fellows among the men who had gone with David said, “Because they did not go with us, we will not give them any of the spoil that we have recovered, except that each man may lead away his wife and children, and depart.”

2 Samuel 23:6
But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away, for they cannot be taken with the hand;

1 Kings 21:10
And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”

Job 11:11
For he knows worthless men; when he sees iniquity, will he not consider it?

So obviously there were "worthless men," and through these verses we read what these worthless men did. I think it's significant that they were actually called worthless in Scripture. The Hebrew word for worthless is beliya`al (bel-e-yah'-al), meaning without profit, having worthlessness; by extension, destruction, ungodliness,  naughtiness, wickedness. It is essentially the same in both languages, only more specific regarding people, because I could say a paper cup is worthless, but it doesn't have any life in it, so it can't be called 'wicked' or portrayed as having an eternal wickedness.

The response a person might have to this is "That can't be right. Worthless can't really mean 'worthless.' People were made in God's image (Gen. 1:27) and it wouldn't make sense for what God made to have no value. They miss something important, though. Sin. The only "worth" we can claim to have as humans who are unsaved is the quality of life that God has given us, in that we have been given attributes of God with which to live: Consciences to distinguish right from wrong, the ability to love, to think, to create, etc. But none of that is beyond a conscious wicked person to do. The insurgents that the U.S. military take out in the middle east are wicked men! And if I lie, I'm a liar, if I murder, I'm a murderer, and on and on. All who do wicked things are wicked. All are workers of iniquity (Psalm 5:5; 11:5). This is a huge factor in the equation, because those insurgents were made in God's image, but what have they done? They've promoted terror around the world and continually ruin  people who will not worship and live the way they live, under Sharia law with their prophet Muhammad and their false god, Allah. It's wickedness, and if it were not so, they'd walk away from people who reject their message like our Savior Jesus instructed the disciples in Luke 9:5. They'd wipe the dust from their "peaceful" shoes and leave town as a testimony instead of blowing off the heads of unbelievers.

Let's get this straight: God did not make sin, and so whatever worthiness a person wants to bestow on a person's sinful condition, needing salvation, must take this into account. We were made in God's image, but being made in God's image is the extent of it. God didn't sin. We did. In Adam, we all fell (Gen. 3, Rom. 5:12, 1 Cor. 15:22). That's the original sin that started it all, trickled on down through humanity because of God's curse on Adam and eve for sinning, which came as a result of direct disobedience to a simple command God gave Eve. We are all born creatures of wrath because of Adam's sin (Rom. 3:23, Eph. 2:3), even though we've been made in God's image, and until God saves any of us, we are born just to live and go to hell (Rom. 9), which still brings God glory in the end because it proves He is who He says He is. God gives a person their worth, their value, and their salvation. 

The issue is about who is worthy in God's eyes of being called worthy because of the worthiness that He of Himself gives to a person. And while it's not the focal point of this article, it is important to emphasize that God is not the author of sin, but rather, the redeemer and cleanser of it! God put an end to the effects of sin on our eternal souls through the atoning work of Christ Jesus on the cross (1 John 2:2), unto all who believe in Him and turn from their sins, and that turning from sin is only possible because God puts value in us (Rom. 8:28-3) and therefore gives us the gift of repentance (Acts 11:18, 2 Tim. 2:25), not because of us or our merit or worthiness, but because of His own (Jer. 17:9, Ps. 96:4, Rom. 3:10, Eph. 2:8-9, Rev. 4:11), for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). 

In the Old Testament verses I shared earlier, God commanded the Israelites to put the worthless, sinful, wicked men out of the camps. His people alone had honor and rights to be there. They were worthy. In the same manner, Christ died for those who believe in Him. Not for those who don't believe in Him. Those people are counted unworthy and have no business in Heaven: No right to be in God's territory, as the Israelites were God's chosen in the Old Testament. In Matthew 7:19, trees that do not bear good fruit are cut down and thrown into the fire. They contain no value. This is how it is for unbelievers, too, which is who the Matthew 7 verse speaks of. This 'worthlessness' is an attribute of humans, with consequences for being wicked. Today in churches, we are commanded to confront a sinner who refuses to repent three times (Matt. 18:15-17), and if they refuse to turn from their sin, they are put out of the Church (1 Cor. 5, Eph. 5:6-12). They would have remained in the Church if they were of it (1 John 2:19).

Now, I have no problem telling someone that without repenting of their sin and believing in Jesus they are worthless, because it's true. I'm not interested in giving people a sense of false hope. The rebuke that follows this is, "it doesn't sound loving and kind at all." That's the issue people have with it. In fact, such a message sounds downright evil to many. But what is the good news, anyway? "You are worth a lot so God will give you more worthiness?" No. The good news is that "6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved byhis life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." (Romans 5:7-11) The unrighteous have no righteous merit at all. 

Worthless in English means worthless in Hebrew, so I don't see the problem. Is telling someone they're totally depraved and need to repent easier to swallow? Is telling a pharisee that he's a son of the Devil worse (John 8:44)? No. Still, it's true. Even if the word "worthless" in the verses above is saying "wicked," is it not semantics at that point? Again, wickedness is not of value. 

Granted, knowing this does not change our charge to love others as Christ loved us (John 13:34-35, 1 John 4:19), nor does it change our command to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:19-20). There simply is no reason to place value on every single person when Scripture clearly states that there were and are worthless individuals.

I am not saying that a person cannot have worth if they are at first worthless and then God saves them. This is about worthlessness before God, and not simply before society. But consider again that if a person doesn't repent of a sin and sits in the Church week after week, after rebukes three times, we are commanded to put them out of the Church. They are of no worth (and are not of us) in the Church, or they'd remain. (I think I'm being pretty consistent in what I'm saying here.) We are all born creatures of wrath because of Adam's sin (Rom. 3:23, Eph. 2:3), even having been made in God's image, and until God saves any of us, we are born just to live and go to hell (Rom. 9), which still brings God glory in the end because it proves He is who He says He is. God gives a person their worth, their value, and their salvation. The issue is about who is worthy in God's eyes of being called worthy because of the worthiness that He of Himself gives to a person.

All of this might hurt feelings, but how much greater then is God's love for those who are of Him, who are saved by grace through faith? "38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom. 8:38-39)

I wrote all of this out because there are many pastors even, who with their schooling and their churches reject this, essentially calling God evil, because in their eyes, God is unjust in sending people He calls wicked and unworthy to Hell. I am not able to correct them, but I certainly can warn women who read this blog against the error of attributing value and worth to every single human on the planet. Many say that calling someone worthless is unrighteous and wicked, which is in of itself, wickedness. It's important to know this because if we say all people have worth, all people have to be good, and if all people are good and can be as good as the deem necessary to be close to or right with God, by their own works and their own admission, Christ died in vain (Gal. 2:17-21). Worthless people exist. We still need to give them the gospel and we absolutely still need to be loving examples of Christ in their lives! We don't know who God will save or how He will use each of us who are saved to minister to sinners, but we can certainly agree that it is God who grants repentance to wicked, worthless, and depraved, hell-bound sinners, which all of us who are elect once were (1 Cor. 6:9-11), but for the grace of God go we.




2 comments:

  1. Very well written. I'd just like to point out that the Bible was not written in English so the word worthless is most likely not a literal translation from Aramaic.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. Aramaic was only used in the New Testament for a time. The Old Testament was written originally in Hebrew and much of the New Testament was originally written in Greek. I have an interlinear Bible that helps with the original texts and their specific meanings as well as a Strong's Concordance to help out even more. If I had the time to, I'd go back through this post and give the original Hebrew and Greek words for each, because I understand English can fail at times. Even in the book of Proverbs, for example, there are multiple uses/meanings of the word "fool," and unless someone were to open the original language for reference, they would not necessarily know that.

      That said, yes, worthless did in fact mean worthless as I explained. Thanks for stopping by!

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