Such a Worm as I

Hymnal editors have this tendency to edit hymns to make them more “theologically sound” (i.e. “politically correct”). Ellis Crum’s old Sacred Selections had dozens of examples.  "When We All Get to Heaven" became "When the Saved to Get Heaven" (we don't want people to think we are universalists). The line in "Amazing Grace" that originally read, "How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed" became "the hour I first obeyed" (There will be no  faith-only here). And "Doxology" became "Praise God" (we didn't want anyone to think we were a high church church… not much of a problem if you are singing from Scared Selections). 

Sometimes songs are edited evidently to protect our own shaky egos. One hymnal changes the line in "Amazing Grace" to read "that saved and set me free"  rather than "that saved a wretch like me."  We don't want our people to feel bad about themselves. Our current hymnal (yes, we have one; we just don't use it) does the same thing with "Alas and Did My Savior Bleed." We sing "would He devote that sacred head for such a one as I?" What Isaac Watts wrote was, "for such a worm as I?" Worm? We don't want to damage our sensitive self-images by referring to ourselves as "worms." I'm a bit surprised we didn't rewrite "I Need Thee Every Hour" to read "You Need Me Every Hour" and include a version of the Mac Davis’ classic, "Lord It’s Hard to Be Humble When You're Perfect in Every Way."

So David was wrong to lament that he was a worm (Psa 22:6). And Job was wrong to feel hopeless, like his mother was a worm (Job 17:14) and Bildad was wrong to agree with him (Job 25:6). And maybe Paul was being too hard on himself when he said, "What a wretched [or "miserable"] man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24). The only other time that this word “wretched” is used in the New Testament is in Jesus’ description of the proud Laodicean who were actually "wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked" (Rev 3:17). They could not repent and change until they recognized their true condition before God. Without God, we are all miserable worms without hope... beyond a place where worms don't die.

We do need to have a healthy self-image (a smart, good-looking guy like me recognizes that).  But that self-image needs to be healthy in the sense of accurate, not simply positive or inflated. Paul writes--

Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us,” (Romans 12:3, NLT). 

The beginning of a true and proper self-image is in seeing how desperately we need God.  We need to understand that our worth and our value depends on Him and not upon us. We are not basically good people who get can pretty close to heaven's entry requirements on our own and who only need God's help to get us over the top with the few things we can't do ourselves. We are all wretched and miserable worms who are transformed into the children of God only through His goodness and grace (1 John 3:1-3).