As I near the end of my first academic quarter teaching middle- and high-school English at a small, Christian school, I have been thinking about how we measure success. An academic grade is one way – and one that as a creative person I am not very fond of.

“Your grade is not a measure of your worth,” I tell students. “It is a measure of your knowledge about a particular subject on a particular day and how well you are able to communicate that knowledge on your homework or a test. It is not a measure of your value as a human being.”

Having attended three schools on two continents during my own high school career, I myself was a C student (when I actually made it to class or turned in my homework). As a result, I often felt inferior to students who earned higher grades. Only when I went to college and discovered something that I was actually interested in – Literature! Writing! – did I find academic success. And still, there were those whose grades were more successful than my own. In a competitive culture, it’s hard not to feel less than, when others appear more than.

So, I wondered, what does the Bible say about self-worth and success? Here are five ideas to ponder:

  1. We are all made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Not one person orbiting the sun on this great planet Earth has more or less value than any other person. In God’s eyes, a king has the same value as a criminal.
  2. Because your value comes from God, you can’t increase or decrease it – not with a bad grade, not with a bad choice or a good one. Your significance is unalterable because it is based on what God says you are worth, not on what others says you are worth (Psalm 139:13-16).
  3. Despite my mistakes, God thought I was worth enough to exchange his life for mine. Scripture says that Christ, being the very image of God, came to rescue me from my poor choices and take the consequences I’d earned so that I could enjoy the blessings he’d planned for me (Colossians 1:15-20).
  4. God’s love for me is equal to the price he paid to rescue me (John 3:16). That, my friends, is a whole lot of love.
  5. True success is based on how closely I follow God and welcome his guidance for my life. “Be strong and courageous,” the Lord told Joshua before he led the Israelites into the land God promised to them. Don’t ignore my words. Meditate on them. Practice them. “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:5-9 ESV).

Unfortunately, in an educational environment grades are still necessary. However, even more than English, I hope to teach my students that their self-worth and their success are based on what God says about them, not what their report card says about them.

Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine. The Lantern Hill Light Parade is one of five books in her Lantern Hill Farm picture-book series, celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith. Connect at