What is the Value of a Life?

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How valuable is the life of human being? Is it of less value than a sports car? How about a pair of fancy shoes? Yet these are all things people have killed for!

Do you own a piece of gold, a rare coin or an original painting? Have you given much thought to what makes things valuable? What determines the value of something to you?

Normally we judge the value of property based on its functionality, rarity or how much a buyer would pay for it. Our needs and desires, or a combination of these, can all play a part in determining value.

If you had $100 in your pocket, what would you give for a drink of water right now? Probably nothing, because you're likely not thirsty, and less-expensive water is probably readily available in the kitchen or from a water fountain. But, if you were stranded in the desert and hadn't had a drink of anything for two days, your answer might be entirely different.

Some needs are more urgent and demanding than others. We all have a need to be loved. Yet survival is an even more basic human need. If you are sitting in your car, suddenly tottering on the edge of a bridge over a deep river after you've crashed through the protective fence, you will not be worrying that your wife didn't hug you that morning.

Have you ever heard of a contest in which an entrant can win a car if he is the last one in a group standing with his hand on the vehicle? Some people have remained standing for days because of a need or, in the case of this contest, a desire to win a prize.

People depreciate

Times change, tastes change, needs change, and cars and people generally depreciate with age. Yet some wine, whiskey, antiques and art appreciate with age.

Values change. A huge Syrian army besieged the ancient city of Samaria until the inhabitants suffered great famine behind their city walls. The situation was so critical that people were paying up to 80 silver shekels for the little flesh they could carve from the head of a donkey. Yet when God caused a panic among the Syrians and they fled leaving all their supplies and food, the cost of food plummeted. You can read about this in 2 Kings:6:24 through 2 Kings:7:1-16, where the principle of supply and demand is so graphically illustrated.

Gold is valuable because it is scarce. Water is plentiful, but it holds a certain value because we depend on it for survival. But how valuable is the life of a human being? Is it of less value than a sports car? How about a pair of fancy shoes? Or a jacket bearing the name of a famous sports team? Yet these are all things people have killed for!

Recently someone shot a young man in cold blood for the $7 he had in his pocket. Even worse, some have killed because of an angry word or simply a facial expression they didn't like. To them the other people's lives were worth less than a loss of face.

What is the value of a human life? Jesus Christ tells us that God loves all of His creation even down to individual birds, and that He takes care of it. "Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Luke:12:6-7).

The price of a slave

How do we place a value on human life?

Judas Iscariot asked the religious leaders of his day who wanted to take the life of Christ, what Jesus' life was worth to them: "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?" the betrayer inquired. In response, "They counted out to him thirty pieces of silver" (Matthew:26:15). The religious leaders determined that Jesus' life was worth, to them, 30 pieces of silver.

How did they arrive at that amount? Leviticus 27 states that a male whose life was previously dedicated for a type of religious service, such as in the tabernacle, could be redeemed for 50 shekels. But the Jews did not dignify Christ's life with that valuation. His life would not be worth that of a free person. "If the ox gores a male or female servant, he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned" (Exodus:21:32). They valued Jesus' life as that of a slave.

What was Christ's real value? To God, His father, He was infinitely valuable. As the Father repeatedly stated, "This is My beloved son" (Matthew:3:17; Matthew:17:5). In the parable of the vineyard, God, in type, talks of His "one son, his beloved," whom He sent, "saying, 'They will respect my son.'" (Mark:12:6).

I can't help but think of my son, Daniel, whom I love very much. I naturally expect others to feel about him the same way I do. Isn't that what God is saying here about His Son?

Once, when Jesus Christ was discussing His impending death with His disciples, "a voice came from heaven, saying, 'I have both glorified [My name] and will glorify it again.'"

(John:12:28). Jesus' followers standing nearby thought they had heard thunder or possibly the voice of an angel.

Jesus clarified what had happened: "This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake" (verse 30). The voice thundered so they would know how much God the Father loved and valued His Son.

Humanity's worth compared to God

Infant hand grasping adult finger - What is the Value of a Life? Christ, the Son of God, was God in the flesh. "To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?" (Isaiah:40:18). "Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing...All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless" (Isaiah:40:15-17). In comparison to God, that is the inherent value of all humanity: nothing!

So what is the value of the life of a man or woman? God knows our insignificant intrinsic value, but He still gave His Son in the supreme sacrifice for us. He paid the price because He loved us, not because we are worth His Son.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John:3:16). This familiar, oft-quoted verse has unfortunately lost much of its impact. It tells us that God's love is so great that He gave His Son to pay the death penalty in our place so that eternal life could be given to us!

Can we, as parents, identify with the value of that life? Once, our son, at the age of 4, became separated from us as he was playing with some other children beside a raging, flooding river. We found him, safe and sound, about half a mile away. I feared he was lost for good in the muddy, swirling waters.

Our little girl was once ill and on the verge of death. We prayed, fasted and cried until there was nothing left to cry. In a few days she fully recovered. A tremendous burden was lifted in these incidents.

A loss of that magnitude is almost greater than we can bear. Yet we are told, "In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John:4:9-10).

Reminder of God's love for us

Passover reminds us of God's love for us. God told His Son how much He valued him, how deeply He loved Him. Many of us know how hard it is to give up someone we deeply love.

God's sacrifice, that loss, the giving up of something so precious to Him, showed how much God loves us and how He feels about sin. Even God could not overlook sin's seriousness and enormous consequences. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans:8:32).

Your life, in that God paid a dear price for it, has value to Him. Let's be reminded of the vastness of His love as we consider the enormity of Jesus Christ's sacrifice for us. 

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