I was reading Hebrews 11 at some point in the past month and a portion of that passage stood out to me. Hebrews 11 is about faith. It gives a list of people who had faith in this world. Their faith led to obedience to God despite the reaction of the world. Many of these “heroes of faith,” as they are called, were persecuted for doing the right thing or faced hardships because they obeyed God. Out of their belief in God’s existence and goodness, they pleased Him by drawing near to Him (11:6). Abel offered a good sacrifice to God (11:4), Abraham heeded God’s call to find a homeland (11:8), and Moses identified with God’s people (11:24). Their rewards for their faith they have not yet received (11:39), instead they received hardships while in this world.
Verses 32-38 show both the powerful potential of faith and its undeserved consequences. The powerful potential of faith: “32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets– 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35a Women received back their dead by resurrection.” [Heb 11:32-35a ESV]
The undeserved consequences of faith: “35b Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– 38 of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” [Heb 11:35-38 ESV]
The part that stood out to me as I read this passage this time around was the interjecting phrase in verse 38. The writer is speaking of the destitution and poor quality of life these faithful people had, being dressed in skins, wandering in deserts, mountains, and caves. These people had a meager quality of life and yet, there is this contradicting phrase, “of whom the world was not worthy.” Take a moment to ponder this.
The world was not worthy of these people. People like Abraham, Noah, Moses, Joseph, Rahab, and more were all people who lived by faith and were often punished for it. Was that what they deserved? What is the proper recompense, reward or punishment, of faith? The world did not commend these people for their faith–no, the opposite. The world treated them poorly, viewed them as fools, and humiliated them while on this earth. This was not what they deserved.
Because of such an egregious failure on the world’s part to recognize the honor and dignity of these people’s faith God declares, the world is not worthy of them. What a thought!
How about you? While being careful not to be prideful, could it not be said that the world does not deserve us Christians? The world fails to understand the value of faith and the dignity of righteousness. If we persevere in our faith, obeying the Lord, and enduring hardships, even persecution, then it is true of you too: the world does not deserve you.