Worthwhile or worthless?

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A couple of weeks ago, I settled down after work and gave my attention to the television. I was watching a new broadcast of our nation’s elected leaders in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate wrangling over the impeachment issue and, the more people talked, the angrier I got.

I started talking back to the television. Finally, after about twenty minutes, I got up, turned the thing off, and tried to calm down. I read, had dinner, and relaxed. Finally, I shut myself in my home office with my Bible, Prayer Book, and list of prayer needs.

As I was reading the Psalm of the day, I was arrested by these words from Psalm 119:37 (NIV)

“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.”

What are the “worthless things” from which we should turn away or avert our attention? Well, first, what are the worthwhile things? The worthy things? That to which we should give our attention?

My answer, as a Christian, may be different from that of others. For one thing, I know what the will of God is for my life. Oh, I don’t mean what will I wear tomorrow or where will I be a year from now. But, “What is God’s will for the living out of my life?” “For I know the plans and thoughts that I have for you,’ says the Lord, ‘plans for peace and well-being and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” (Jer 29:11 AMP). Well, that’s good news.

But, according to other scriptures, He desires that I be “transformed into the image of His dear Son (Jesus),” that I “be changed from glory to glory,” that I possess a “peace that passes all understanding,” and have a “joy unspeakable and full of glory,” and that, at the end, I be found faithful and enter into His joy.

There’s more, of course, but that’s a snapshot. That which is worthwhile and that which is worthy is that which helps me along this pathway. That which does not contribute to the goal may be suspect and that which detracts from it is certainly neither worthy nor worthwhile.

Now at an age at which almost all of my contemporaries have retired, I find that, looking back, much of my time, my energies, my efforts, and my life were spent on things that, in the long run, matter very little.

I have boxes and boxes in my attic of things that I used to proudly display in my offices; awards, certificates, letters of commendation, mementoes of accomplishments … once important, now in storage. Some of those items were worthwhile, maybe even worthy, of the time spent to accrue them. But other things represent pride, ego, busyness, selfish ambition, or some other worthless activity.

Watching politicians preen, posture, and position themselves while they argue for their own agendas and place blame on others is a worthless exercise for me. It does not contribute to my well-being or the quality of my life and may even be doing damage to the progress I would like to make. I rarely enter into political discussion on social media for the same reasons. It’s not productive, not beneficial, and not conducive to a life of joy and peace.

For that matter, I rarely enter into religious arguments on social media either. I am more than happy to have religious discussions with people who are truly interested in learning or in having a genuine dialog to exchange concepts.

I often have questions for people with whom I may not agree in order to understand their reasoning for their positions or to understand where they are coming from. But back and forth attacks? Nope. Sorry. Not interested. Not worthwhile.

It’s not just politics or religion that can result in worthless activities. The 2020 Super Bowl comes to mind. Oh, the game was great! The team I chose to support in this event won. So that was satisfactory. The outcome was not certain until the last few minutes and it could have gone either way.

I don’t consider sports worthless for a variety of reasons. The halftime show, however, was an opportunity, for me, to go into another room and read something. It only took a minute or two to determine that the display and activities on the screen were not worthwhile. For me, it would have been worthless.

I realize, to some extent, everyone will have differing opinions on what is worthwhile and what is worthless. But I am neither responsible for nor accountable to “everyone.” I am responsible for me and am accountable to God.

What my eyes see, my ears hear, my mouth speaks, my mind ponders really should be worthy and worthwhile. It’s not always and therein lies the problem.

Too much of my life has been invested in the worthless. And when I say “worthless,” I am not speaking of people. Each individual is created in the image of God (including the born and the pre-born) therefore each individual is of infinite worth. There are no worthless people, however we may falsely label them.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta spent a lifetime working with people that others considered worthless. But Mother Teresa saw in each of them the face of Jesus. She saw them as God saw them. After all, John 3:16 says that God so loved the world …” Not just some people in the world. Not just the best, the brightest, the smartest, and the richest but all of those people who are in the world. God valued them so much he sent His Son specifically for them. So, no, there are no worthless people.

But there are, as the Psalmist knew, worthless activities, endeavors, goals, aspirations, and such. From such things, the Psalmist prays for God to turn his eyes. That would be a worthy and worthwhile prayer.

[David Epps is the pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA between Newnan and Peachtree City (www.ctk.life). He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South which consists of Georgia and Tennessee and the Associate Endorser for the Department of the Armed Forces, U. S. Military Chaplains, ICCEC. He may contacted at davidepps@ctk.life.]

2 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting how your premise is predicated on what you choose to label as worthwhile. Besides contemplations of your religious faith and a belief that all humans possess value, nothing else is mentioned as worthy of time or energy. Perhaps you are right. A man purported to be very wise in your holy book pronounced everything as mere vanity and chasing after the wind. His existential musings are at least consistent with a very ephemeral life space.