This is the relevant Greek word commonly translated as “worthy”:
1) weighing, having weight, having the weight of another thing of like value, worth as much
2) befitting, congruous, corresponding to a thing
3) of one who has merited anything worthy
3a) both in a good and a bad sense
Part of Speech: adjective
Importantly, the true Christian is worthy of communion with God (the fact remains that our salvation is by God’s grace, therefore this “worthiness” is also by God’s grace):
Revelation 3:4-5 KJV
(4) Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
(5) He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
Matthew 10:37-38 ESV
(37) Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
(38) And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
However, Jesus seems to say something different in Luke 17:10:
Luke 17:10 ESV
(10) So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”
But in this case, the word “unworthy” is from a completely different Greek word: ἀχρεῖος (transliterated: achreios).
And please consider the following translation:
Luke 17:10 (NET) So you too, when you have done everything you were commanded to do, should say, ‘We are slaves undeserving of special praise; we have only done what was our duty.’”
NET Translators’ Notes: Some translations describe the slaves as “worthless” (NRSV) or “unworthy” (NASB, NIV) but that is not Jesus’ point. These disciples have not done anything deserving special commendation or praise (L&N 33.361), but only what would normally be expected of a slave in such a situation (thus the translation “we have only done what was our duty”).
The Luke 17:10 passage is also explained in detail in this book, the relevant page of which can be read here: Parables for Preachers: The Gospel of Luke …
A related passage:
1 Corinthians 6:2-3 KJV
(2) Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?
(3) Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?
Therefore, as Christians, we should not consider ourselves unworthy, but instead realise that we are actually worthy in God’s eyes, and ought to live up to the worth that God has accorded us.
Ephesians 4:1-3 KJV
(1) I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,
(2) With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
(3) Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Colossians 1:9-17 KJV
(9) For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
(10) That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
(11) Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
(12) Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light:
(13) Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:
(14) In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
(15) Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
(16) For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
(17) And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
PS. This note was written mainly in response to the countless occasions on which I have heard Christians talk of themselves as “unworthy”, and how I understand this practice to be highly unbiblical.
[originally written on Facebook in 2012]