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.
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 2 Kings 6:24And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria.
American King James Version×through 2 Kings 7:1-16 2 Kings 7:1-16 1 Then Elisha said, Hear you the word of the LORD; Thus said the LORD, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria. 2 Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, you shall see it with your eyes, but shall not eat thereof. 3 And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? 4 If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall to the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die. 5 And they rose up in the twilight, to go to the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there. 6 For the LORD had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, See, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come on us. 7 Why they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life. 8 And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried there silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried there also, and went and hid it. 9 Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come on us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king’s household. 10 So they came and called to the porter of the city: and they told them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man, but horses tied, and asses tied, and the tents as they were. 11 And he called the porters; and they told it to the king’s house within. 12 And the king arose in the night, and said to his servants, I will now show you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we be hungry; therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city. 13 And one of his servants answered and said, Let some take, I pray you, five of the horses that remain, which are left in the city, (behold, they are as all the multitude of Israel that are left in it: behold, I say, they are even as all the multitude of the Israelites that are consumed:) and let us send and see. 14 They took therefore two chariot horses; and the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, Go and see. 15 And they went after them to Jordan: and, see, all the way was full of garments and vessels, which the Syrians had cast away in their haste. And the messengers returned, and told the king. 16 And the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD.
American King James Version×, 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 Luke 12:6-7 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?
7 But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: you are of more value than many sparrows.
American King James Version×).
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 Matthew 26:15And said to them, What will you give me, and I will deliver him to you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.
American King James Version×). 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 Exodus 21:32If the ox shall push a manservant or a maidservant; he shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned.
American King James Version×). 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 3:17And see a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
American King James Version×; Matthew 17:5 Matthew 17:5While he yet spoke, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear you him.
American King James Version×). 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 Mark 12:6Having yet therefore one son, his well beloved, he sent him also last to them, saying, They will reverence my son.
American King James Version×).
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 John 12:28Father, glorify your name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.
American King James Version×). 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
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 Isaiah 40:18To whom then will you liken God? or what likeness will you compare to him?
American King James Version×). “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 Isaiah 40:15-17 15 Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he takes up the isles as a very little thing. 16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. 17 All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.
American King James Version×). 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 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
American King James Version×). 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 1 John 4:9-10 9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
American King James Version×).
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 Romans 8:32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?
American King James Version×).
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.