What is the value of a person?
In many cultures men are honored more than women. Rich people are respected more than poor people. The current market value of a person is determined like the price of a car. Model, year, and condition all play a part.
The disturbing truth is that human worth, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. Yet something interesting shows up in the eyes of a mother or father.
A question of the heart
After the birth of our son Ben in 1973 and our daughter Jen in 1979, I was overwhelmed by how much I loved both of them. At some point I remember thinking: I’m not sure I understood the value of a person before becoming a parent. And then another thought: What if the devil approached me with a bid for their souls?
Answers that don’t come close
Here’s one way the proposition plays out. The devil offers to rig the world’s largest lottery in exchange for the life of Ben. Then he suggests the lifetime earnings of the world’s wealthiest family for Jen. When he sees that he hasn’t gotten my attention, he says, “Name your price. What about all the oil in the Mideast? All the real estate in the world? All the industry on the planet? I’ll throw in personal happiness, good health, and a long life for you and your wife.”
You see where this is going. Your answer would be the same as mine. No amount of money or material possessions could tempt us to sell—for any price—one of our own children.
But then there is another question. What if the devil offered me all the money, real estate, and industry of the world for the soul of someone else’s child?
Since I’ve just admitted that I couldn’t put a price tag of any amount on one of my own children, I’m in a frame of mind to remember that everyone is somebody’s baby. And by a parent’s standard, there isn’t another child in the world worth less than my own. Yet here my own character gives out on me. While my love for Ben and Jen tells me something about the priceless value of a person, my own conscience tells me how inconsistently I’ve given attention and consideration even to my own children—let alone the sons and daughters of others.
The need for better eyes
There is only one Person who never lost sight of the value of a person. Day after day Jesus treated women and men, old and young, poor and rich, sick and healthy as if they all were important. Even when offered the kingdoms of the world for a moment of blind self-interest He didn’t cave in (Matthew 4:1-11). He consistently saw something in others worth dying for.
Sometimes Jesus used little things to show the value He saw in others. Once, after asking His followers to risk their lives for Him, He asked, “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
His point was clear. If the Father in heaven takes note of a sparrow falling to the ground, then who can imagine how much more He loves and cares for His own children.
On another occasion, Jesus used big things to show the value He sees in a person. To people inclined even to forget the value of their own life, Jesus asked, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
The eloquence of action
Jesus’ words were powerful, but His actions were even more telling. While some of the most religious people of His day looked down on or ignored women, ethnic minorities, poor people, and prisoners, Christ noticed and befriended them.
Christ’s value of the person is a revolutionary principle of life. If we all shared His value of a person, our families and churches would be healthier and safer places to be. Business and industry would be transformed by owners and managers who saw workers through Christ’s eyes. Nothing would give more honor and value to either our friends or our enemies than to be treated as someone “for whom Christ died” (Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 8:11).
The apostle John was one of Jesus’ closest friends during our Lord’s 3 years of public life, and John was deeply moved by the way Christ valued him. This love spilled over into the apostle’s concern for others. In the fourth chapter of his first New Testament letter, he wrote, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [sacrifice] for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10-11).
Father in heaven, You know how often I have treated others as if their value was to be found in their work, their appearance, or their usefulness to me. Yet, in this moment the words and sacrifice of Your Son are stirring something deep within me. I see that valuing others because of what You think of them is far more important than valuing them because of what they think of me.
By Your grace I want to be different. Please let me see through Your eyes. I want what You see in the value of a person to shape the rest of my life. —Mart De Haan