Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Worth and worthiness - the paradox

"St. Martin and the Beggar" - El Greco

Today's society - in the United States at any rate - is very caught up with the idea of personal and individual worthiness. Many of us believe that we shouldn't assist anyone who isn't worthy of being assisted according to our own understanding of what that means. Such an approach is not, however, the Christian way:

"Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody's business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy if anything can."

-- Thomas Merton


  1. Just one suggested modification. Many Americans no longer care whether a person deserves help. They just want to keep what they have and whatever they can get from others too, for themselves.

  2. Does anyone know when or why this change occurred in regards to the idea of individual worthiness? I was shocked when my Dad informed me he had refused to deliver holiday dinners through the church to the government housing apartments because of the smoking, drinking, and drugs that went on there. This was not how he had raised me. I had been raised that you treated everyone fairly and it wasn't man's job to judge. I didn't question him at the time because our views on religion were so diverse it was a rocky subject and now I can't because he is gone. Still, I often wonder, what happened in those intervening decades?

  3. Dear Anonymous,

    I wonder if your Dad was just plain scared. It can be pretty intimidating to go into such an environment.

    annie c

  4. That's a thought, Annie. Could be.

    I also think that something has happened in our society in the last few decades about this. Certainly when I was a child, it was not at all unusual to hear people say, "There but for the grace of God go I," in reference to the disadvantaged. Today, the prevailing belief is more like, "This would never happen to me because I'm good and I work hard."

    They are quite different messages, aren't they?


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