Q: What does it mean to be worthless?
A: Not usable. Good for nothing. Without practical value. Without worth.
So how does one become worthless? By pursuing worthless things!
Think back with me to the book of Jeremiah. The prophet Jeremiah was called by God to proclaim judgment on the tribe of Judah (also called Israel). God’s people had been following after idols, worshiping pagan gods, and participating in false religion. They had turned their hearts away from worshiping the one true God, and turned to gods of no value. Worthless things.
And perhaps they gave no thought to the consequences of their sin; perhaps they just didn’t care. One thing is clear: they continually rejected God, and instead sought the acceptance of local cultures and pagan societies. They continually ignored His commands, and chose instead to obey local religious rituals. They offered sacrifices to nonexistent gods, instead of offering the sacrifice of obedience to the one true God.
And all these pursuits were deemed worthless by their Creator. Hear what He had to say to them, the condemnation and promised judgment that was preached by Jeremiah [2:11-13]:
Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for that which does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
declares the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves,
broken cisterns that can hold no water.
You see, you can’t simply “not follow God.” You either choose God or something (someone) else. You either obey Him, or you obey something else. Because when you turn away from one thing, you must turn toward something else.
But anything other than God is worthless! Anything else is like a broken cistern. Cisterns were built to hold water, so the people could still have it in case of drought or siege. Water is crucial to survival, and ancient cities realized that, and prepared ahead to have ready access to it in times of trouble.
But a broken cistern? What good is that? It holds no water! It serves no purpose. It is good for absolutely nothing!
And yet, that is what Israel was becoming. She was rejecting the fountain of living water in favor of worthless pursuits. And what she was pursuing, she was also becoming [2:5]:
What wrong did your fathers find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthlessness, and became worthless?
Israel was becoming worthless. Unusable. Not good for any purpose. She spent her energy pursuing worthless ends, seeking favor from other nations, obeying empty traditions and rituals. She traded value for emptiness. Life for decay. Water for drought.
And what she sought after, was what she was becoming.
And the same is true for us. Whatever we seek after, that is what we are becoming. Whatever we spend our time and energy on, that is where our hearts and minds will be. Whoever’s approval we strive for, that is whom we will become like.
So take a moment to think about your average day. Consider what you are pursuing:
- What is your focus when you get up in the morning – pleasing God, serving your family, meeting your needs (etc) ?
- What are your priorities each day – meeting your family’s needs, being successful at work, enjoying yourself ?
- Whose approval do you hope to gain each day – boss or coworkers, family, godly friends, unsaved friends, God ?
- What are you in the habit of doing every single day - reading your Bible, praying, socializing, working, playing games, volunteering ?
- What is the one thing you cannot do without each day – watch your favorite program, go shopping, pursue a hobby, spend time with God, spend time with friends, spend time at work ?
Now think about your answers. Are you pursuing worthy things? Are you spending time doing things that will produce value? Or are you building broken cisterns – things that ultimately will not help you. Things that have no value in eternity.
I’m not saying you have to spend every single minute reading your Bible, singing hymns, praying lengthy prayers, or volunteering in soup kitchens. Other things have value too – like meeting your family’s needs by working in or out of the home, taking care of your body (God’s temple), being a friend to others, enriching your mind by learning and practicing hobbies. But all those things can become worthless if they take the place of the greatest priority – seeking God, and obeying Him.
Consider this: do you focus your mind on Him, first thing in the morning? Do you seek His pleasure as you talk with others throughout the day? Do you consider what pleases Him when you go shopping, watch a movie, or spend time with friends? Do you seek His approval more than anyone else’s?
Is spending time alone with God the one thing you can’t do without each day? Is there anything else that’s more important in your life?
Whatever you spend time doing, that’s what your life is becoming. Are you becoming something valuable to God, a vessel that’s worthy of His use?
Or are you becoming worthless?