This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
I am incomparable. Last Sunday it was about self-love.
A topic that is actually a bit frowned upon in Christian circles because we were taught that we shouldn’t take ourselves so seriously. But we have seen that Jesus gives us a command and how important it is that we learn to love ourselves.
Because that saves us from becoming selfish, because this is the only way we can love others, because this is the only way our life glorifies God and we radiate his love and because this is the only way we grow into the fullness of life that he would like to give us.
Today there is another topic that affects each of us.
At first glance it seems like it’s mostly something for teenagers, but I believe it’s also a question that subconsciously drives most adults. Namely the question of who or what determines my value. When do I feel good, when do I feel valuable?
And this topic is very closely linked to our identity and the question: Who am I? What defines me, how do I define myself as a person?
A great place to find out how people describe themselves is through personals.
What makes me stand out: I like to laugh a lot and am always in a good mood, very humorous, honest, loyal and reliable, tolerant and empathetic, can listen well, etc. Here’s another one that has less to do with the topic now, but I found it so funny that I don’t want to withhold it from you:
Are all Italians macho?
No! Me, 28/181/82, sensitive type, looking for an independent woman who has her own opinion and is strong enough to keep it to herself. Which not only cuts a good figure in a bikini, but also at the stove. Get in touch and I’ll carry you on my hands (only up to 80 kilos)
When we meet new people, e.g. In the community, at work, in our free time, we usually introduce ourselves like this:
Hello, I’m Sebastian, or Miriam or something like that, I’m 35 (under 40, we usually still say that) I’m from Frankenberg, I’m married and have two children I am a project manager at FingerHaus.
But now imagine if it all fell away. You have an accident at work as a result of which you can no longer work.
Everything you wanted to achieve in life no longer works. Your marriage breaks up, you have to move to a strange city. What are you then Then what is your worth?
Very few things happen in such a pointed way and that’s why we sometimes don’t even notice what kind of inner driver we have.
Some realize this when they retire, or when they’re on their deathbed, or in a major crisis.
Jesus tells a story.
And in this story the four main drivers of our life become clear, what determines our value and what defines us as human beings.
And I think it’s exciting that Jesus tells a story. He could have just said, those are the 4 points, and that is the solution. But you know, this topic isn’t so much about our head, it’s a question that goes much deeper. And stories are something that can touch us on this level. And so I pray that this story of Jesus, even if we’ve heard it a hundred times, will really touch and change our hearts.
Luke 15, 11-32
And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry. 25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. 29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. 31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. 32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.
So there are two sons who are both trying in different ways to create value for themselves. The first son is defined by his property.
1. I am what I have (possession)
He goes to the father and demands the payment of his inheritance. That was a cheek, because it actually meant something like: I want your money, but I’m not interested in you. I actually wish you were dead, but I don’t want to wait that long.
The normal reaction of a head of family not only at that time would have been to throw this son out on edge. Not so the father, he pays the son the inheritance. The son moves away and we actually don’t read so much more than that he lives in luxury and really enjoys life.
I am what I have.
Money means, I can afford something, the world is open to me.
I am what I have, if we think from the point of view of who or what determines my value, then that is more than just money. I am what I have, it can also be power and influence or a certain position that people brag about or work towards. If I have achieved that, then I am. With children it was the toys, later with the youngsters the clothes. The degree at and from the university.
My relationships, my family, my life experience. my intelligence, my beautiful body. Just think about it, what are you proud of what you have?
Doesn’t that feel good? Aren’t these things that we might also like to put on the show? Often it’s not so much about ownership, here the motives mix, but about recognition. This is the 2nd point that I can use to define myself:
2. I am what others think of me (recognition)The son has money, so he can throw one party after the other, he’s well-known, he has friends. Quite a few of us depend on what others think of you. Here is a short example from the book Giant Souls Dwarfs, Perhaps this sounds familiar to you:
There is someone who meets with his friend and afterwards he discovers the following:
I suddenly realized that from the time I saw my acquaintance to that very moment, I had been solely concerned with myself. During the two or three minutes leading up to our meeting, I was just thinking about the smart things I wanted to say to him that were sure to impress him. During the five minutes we spoke to each other, I only listened to him so that I could answer as quickly as possible. I just looked at him to see what effect what was said had on him. And during the two or three minutes after we met, I just thought about what else I could have said to impress him even more. I hadn’t shown a trace of interest in himself.Whether we define ourselves through the recognition of other people can also be seen by how we deal with criticism. Will one world collapse for us or will the other become my enemy because he dared to shake my building?The danger is when we define ourselves through the recognition of others that we become dependent on them. That we disguise ourselves, that we are no longer ourselves, that we keep our opinions behind the mountain, or in the worst case, that’s how the first son does it here: When his money was wasted and there was a famine, everyone left him in the lurch and, as we read here: He turned to a citizen of the country, it literally means that he clung to him.
Sometimes we cling to others either to shine brighter in his or her light or to get his or her attention. This is sometimes the case in unhealthy relationships and goes so far as to let people shamelessly take advantage of us. I once read that this is a big reason why people slide into prostitution, that they send the person they adore, and because they don’t want to lose the person’s approval, they do it. Or tests of courage, or or. The man here sends the son in just such a mess, to the pigs. After all, he remembers home.
He makes his way back and wonders what to say to my father. Do you still have the words in your ear:
I will get up and go to my father and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I’m no longer worthy of being called your son
I will name the third point by which people define themselves:
3. I am what I did – in a negative sense: (failure / guilt)Sometimes we meet people who are so upset because of an event in their life where they have failed that they still live like this today: I’m not worth it, I don’t deserve it – praise, a specific job, something good in your life. You dare not do anything anymore. Failure shaped her life. Sometimes also a guilt that they have charged themselves and that they carry around with them all their lives. That depresses them and defines them in today. This is me. And maybe you know that, it doesn’t have to be that extreme, but that there is something in your life that follows you from the past and does not let you go. And that can also be a feeling towards God. The son says yes, I have sinned against heaven.Now let’s look further.
The son is coming home. We will come to the reaction of the father in a moment. But there is also the other son.
The one who stayed at home all the time. The one who was with father. But from his reaction we can see that he, too, was not defined by this closeness to his father, but by his performance. It was all about what he got from his work, his wages, his inheritance.
4. I am what I do (performance)Many define themselves by what they have achieved or are able to achieve. They work their whole life, but don’t let me notice that they are suddenly no longer needed. That they are replaceable.
You can also turn this 4th point around:
And that is exactly the attitude of the 2nd son. He compares himself to the younger one. I didn’t move away. I’ve always done your will. I worked hard. I’m doing it right.
Do you notice what’s coming in here?
I am what I do, I make my own justice. I am good and the other is not. I’m doing it right, I’m decent, I’m good. I deserve this legacy – as opposed to that.Good friends of ours have a cute little daughter. And she had a favorite doll, or rather, a little rabbit.
He had to go everywhere, was always there, whether during the day, in the evening in bed, or when traveling. He was always with. After a few years it was totally wrecked. One eye was missing, and instead of an original color, it was already brown with dirt.
Her parents bought her a new rabbit for her 5th birthday.
Exactly the same, just new. Looked really great, I was there. And the daughter was really happy to see her rabbit in new. But then her parents wanted her to give up her old hand, it was getting embarrassing to walk around with it. But give up the old hand. No, that wasn’t possible
Throw in the garbage can? No way.Dramatic scenes played out. No, the daughter had so many experiences with the old hand and really loved him. The new rabbit couldn’t keep up. Look or not. And because she loved her old hand, he was incredibly valuable.Maybe some of you feel the same way and you are just remembering your old cuddly toys. Some have now exchanged the doll or teddy bear for a girlfriend or boyfriend, a man or a woman. But something makes this story clear: Love is valuable!Love, the love of children for a rabbit, makes this rabbit valuable. The hare was junk, worthless, broken, but for the girl the most valuable hare in the world.
Not achievement, recognition, or possession. All of this is fluctuating. You have to make an effort over and over again. Maybe play something for others so that they don’t see your flaws and weaknesses. Fool yourself into believing that you are valuable.
But if someone loves you, then you are really valuable.
Jesus tells the story of the two sons, but actually it is the story of the loving Father, God himself. The father who made you.
He who says to Jesus, this is my Beloved Son, and who also speaks to us in creation: Very well, I love you before we have said or done anything.
The one who lets people go, lets us go into the supposed freedom, no matter how much we offend him.
The one who stands in the door and waits for you every day to see if you will come back.
Who runs towards the son when he sees him.
Who hugs the stinking son and kisses him.
He who has abundant bread, the 1st son states, and this bread in abundance reminds me of two other passages in the Bible, where Jesus says on the one hand that he is the bread of life that is really full makes and fills our emptiness and on the other hand who wants to give us life in abundance.
But instead of looking and going to Jesus, saying, my stunted heart looks like I would like it too, and helping me with my feelings, instead of letting Jesus love us in such situations, we push away our true feelings and despise the other. We close our hearts away from Jesus and become superficial.