The Tricky Thing About Value, Worth, & Identity

February 21, 2013

"Jesus said to her, 'Go, get your husband, and come back here.' The woman replied, 'I don't have a husband.' 'You are right to say, I don't have a husband, Jesus answered. 'You've had five husbands, and the man you are with now isn't your husband. You've spoken the truth.'"

This passage from John 4 was the main text for our discussion in our faith collectives this week. Many of us have heard this passage before. Somehow, we manipulate the story to fit our modern context and consequently assume that the woman had questionable morals and was "getting around" from man to man. The tone from Jesus we hear sounds like "Tsk, tsk, tsk... you've been a bad girl."

Yet, the reality is quite different. This woman was not a promiscuous vixen; she was a defenseless victim.

In her day and age, a woman's value and worth was bound in her ability to make babies--especially male babies. If she was not able to, then her husband could legally abandon her. The fact that this woman could not conceive led to her being placed in a dehumanizing position of being passed around from man to man.

While it is easy to tell a "single story" of the woman; even patronize her with pity, we must ask: In what ways am I like the woman?

Those in this woman's society had stripped her of her humanity; and instead viewed her as a machine only valuable if she could produce a certain outcome or good--in this case, a baby. Like other machines and commodities, when she was no longer able to produce the desired "product" she was discarded as worthless. We may rightly read this and gasp in the tragedy of such a view.

And yet, this is how most of us view ourselves, others, and ultimately God. We gauge the quality of our days or weeks based on "how much we get done." We invest into relationships so that others will respond in a certain way that we deem we deserve. Even Jesus is interacted with in transactional terms rather than relational--consequently, we think He views us this way too!

However, Jesus goes out of His way to the Samaritan badlands to remind this woman that she is of so much worth to Him. He speaks life into where others had designated her to a place of death. She was not a machine or commodity; she was a child worth celebrating. And what is remarkable is that to Jesus--so are we!

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