You are not enough (and that’s okay)

There’s a phrase that I’ve seen floating around the internet, especially in Christian female circles, and at first glance it’s empowering. “You are enough!”

At first, I kind of felt weird about this phrase, but I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was my own insecurities, not believing it or not feeling “enough”. Not pretty enough, smart enough, talented enough, bold enough, popular enough, rich enough, stylish enough, thin enough – there are so many messages thrown at us that we are not enough and I deeply appreciate the efforts of this “enough” movement who are trying to counteract this by telling women they are enough.

But I think we need to be very careful about how we phrase this and be sure we know exactly what we are trying to communicate. Because friends, biblically, we are not enough. 

Let me remind you of Romans 3:23 – a familiar one, “for all have fallen short of the glory of God”. Let’s read a different translation (because sometimes new words help us to see new meaning in verses we otherwise overlook because of their familiarity).

ROMANS 3:9-19 MSG
So where does that put us? Do we [believers] get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it:
There’s nobody living right, not even one,
nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God.
They’ve all taken the wrong turn;
they’ve all wandered down blind alleys.
No one’s living right;
I can’t find a single one.
Their throats are gaping graves,
their tongues slick as mudslides.
Every word they speak is tinged with poison.
They open their mouths and pollute the air.
They race for the honour of sinner-of-the-year,
litter the land with heartbreak and ruin,
Don’t know the first thing about living with others.
They never give God the time of day.
This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? 

The Bible leaves no room to wiggle out of it – we all are sinners. When it says “they”, it is including both you and I; we are in competition for sinner of the year. Yikes. What an honour.  (Brief side note, I know a lot of people hate on The Message translation of the Bible but sometimes I just LOVE the way it chooses its words). We are not enough; we are beautiful but oh so broken. So far from God, from righteousness, from kindness, from goodness, from perfection. The message of the Bible is that all of us, every single one, is sinful and falling short of what God had for us. We are not enough.

But!

But, JESUS! THIS is the message of the Gospel – that we are not enough, but Jesus is.

ROMANS 3:21-24 MSG
But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.

Part of what makes Jesus so radical is that we were not enough, yet He still loved us. That while we were still sinners, He died for us. (Will you forgive me if we look at this verse in The Message version too because like DANG it paints a picture).

ROMANS 5:6-8 MSG
Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

You do not have to be enough for Jesus. You do not have to wait until you get your life together, until you are kinder, less sinful, more generous, thinner, richer, a better pray-er, until you have conquered your secret sins. We are not enough, and that is okay, because Jesus is everything.

If this sits weird with you – that’s okay. Honestly, it would be easier if we could truly be enough, if it was in our control, if we could do it on our own. We want so desperately to prove our value and to be enough for Jesus. But it is not our works, our projects, our plans, or our Pinterest that caused Jesus to save us – it was His own love. Our salvation is not based on our worthiness (or hitting some measure of “enough”) but on His grace, and thank goodness.

I think the message of the “I am enough” movement comes from a good place. I think that it is trying to remind us that we are loved by God just as we are, and that we should extend that same type of love to others just as they are. I think it is trying to extend grace, especially to women who feel the need to have a perfect life – that its okay to have a messy house, to not have it all together, and to forget your clothes in the washer for days on end. That no matter how pretty your life is (or isn’t), that we are all worthy of grace, love, respect. And I don’t think this message is bad. These things are true – it is okay to not have it all together and it is refreshing to share our lives in honest and real ways. However, I do think it is one of those slippery slopes of theology where we prefer what sounds good over what is true. Shouting out that we are enough despite our mess isn’t as life giving (or as true) as shouting out that we are a mess but Jesus loves us!

In my opinion, the message of the Bible is actually more beautiful. That we are not enough before God but that He loved us so much He saved us from ourselves anyway – making us right with Him and setting us on a new path (and not just once but as many times as we need). By accepting how “not enough” we are, I think it only increases our praise and awe of our Saviour.

This is the GOOD NEWS! This is the Gospel we are called to share with others; the overwhelming scope and un-deserved-ness of God’s love. That the grace-filled gift of salvation we have already been offered in our current condition overcomes the need to ever measure up. Do you feel the freedom in that?

EPHESIANS 3:8-10,14-19 MSG
And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ. My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along. Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.

 

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