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Thursday, December 18, 2014

What am I worth?

What am I worth? What is the value of a human life? Does the individual life have value simply because it IS? How much value is placed on a beating heart, the snapping of synapses? I am going to make some statements and please decided before reading further if you: 1.disagree completely 2.moderately disagree 3.have no leaning 4.moderately agree 5.agree entirely
A.Human life has intrinsic (internal) value and is sacred
B.There is nothing in life more important than the lives of people
C.All human lives have equal value
D.God loves all people equally

These are all suppositions I feel have been increasingly perpetuated in modern society. But I've been struggling within myself about if they are beneficial, or even accurate.

Let's first look at the idea that human life has intrinsic value. There are several situations in which this seems to be factual. For example, a person who murders a pregnant woman is charged for both the murder of her, and of her unborn child. This bestows value to something that has no effect, positive or negative, on society. Its only impact is purely potential (Aside from economy-boosting money spent on prenatal health care). But there are other situations where the value of a life is superseded by situations surrounding it. Abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide (for the purpose of population control), all negate the value of life by pitting it against the scale of quality. The negative implications of the life can outweigh its potential benefits, and in each of those situations that decision is made externally. That means the value is not internally born, it is flexible. It is externally decided. Children and women were prioritized in emergencies, because their external potential was greater. Women could bear more children. Children had more life ahead of them. The lives of the men were devalued, there was nothing inside them that changed... only the circumstances. If a beloved philanthropist with a large adoring family passes away, it is a great loss. If a lonely hermit with no social contact and no family passes away, is it a loss as well? When things of value are destroyed it is a loss. Did the life of the hermit have value? It may be entirely possible that our value is purely externally derived by our circumstances and even more by the people around us. Those who love us, need us, and surround us may very well bestow on us our value. What is a diamond worth with no one to admire it?

Let's now look at the idea that nothing is more important than human life. In the movie 300, the small but proud Spartan army knowingly charged to their graves. They had no illusion that the battle would end in their favor. In the latest Hunger Games movie, a scene occurred where a small band of rebels charged a dam providing power to the Capitol. The rebels in the front of the onslaught knew that the guards would open fire surely killing some, but the sheer numbers would eventually overpower and allow the last of the group to place explosives in the dam, destroying it. These scenes played for an audience of modern patrons who all nodded, with hearts aflame, admiring the bravery of the protagonists in the scene. No one sat with pursed lips, scowling, "What a waste... surely there must have been another way to spare the people!" It was generally agreed upon with out approval that there are things more important than individuals. Pride. Honor. Freedom. The good of the majority. It's been chanted throughout history, so why refute what has been a building block of our "modern" society?

On another note, I'm not implying that societal trends and behavior indicates absolute truth. If that were so then we would have to suppose that the racism in the seventies defined African Americans as having inferior value. I only use social examples because with inscrutable topics such as personal worth, the observational sciences are some of the only data that can be presented without dipping permanently into philosophical reasoning.

Now I want to focus on the push towards egalitarianism. Are all people truly created equal? Picture a post-apocalyptic society. Any illusion of total equality is discarded for a "survival of the fittest" mentality. Those with skills are prioritized, the strongest conquer the weaker for rights to scarce supplies and property. If the weakest were protected, the group as a whole would be weakened as there is simply not enough resources to go around. So why, if it makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint, would egalitarianism be discarded when survival is most important? It seems that equality is a luxury, adopted only in times of plenty and not in fact based in core truth. So as we become more evolved, why push for a concept that is apparently not evolutionarily advantageous?

Now I turn towards things of spirituality. As a follower of Jesus, I turn towards scripture as the source of truth. And I ask myself, was God an egalitarian? He definitely made sure the door to Him was open to all through Jesus. Jesus spent time with the religious leaders, the poor, the rich, and the outcasts of society. He definitely seemed to share a special affection for the downtrodden of society and stated that the rich and "religious" would have an extremely hard time coming to Him but that was not his doing, simply the way it was. The broken realized the need for him more easily, the well-off did not. But in the Old Testament God prioritizes the Israelites, the Chosen people, time after time. He gives victories to His armies, and wipes out entire populations. Populations of people>. The Egyptian army was buried by water as the Jews escaped on dry land. These soldiers were just men following orders, they all had families and lives. They were no more sinful in nature than the Chosen people. Maybe He loved them and valued them, but He also destroyed them. It's a hard truth of scripture. God is a just God, and the price of sin is death. Not all will be saved. Not all are meant to be saved. Some are favored. Before the birth of Christ, obedience is highly valued. After the birth of Christ, faith is highly valued. After the death of Christ, the tables seem to be turned. It makes sense that the value of something is determined by the price paid for it. The price for us suddenly became the blood of the Christ. Invaluable. For those under the grace of the cross, a value is received that is completely separate from all external factors. It is the great equalizer. All the other situations that shake other definitions fall away in the weight of the worth given to the Children of God. Scripture says that He adopts them into His royal family. From the point on that worth is bestowed there is no need for any additions. Wealth, beauty, talent, love, status, or even life have any impact on our worth in God's eyes. Our value is set, and it is SO high. And since I choose God as the bestower of my value, I feel freed to simply BE. In Him, I can simply BE.

I've been processing worth and value for weeks, trying my very best to take God out of the equation and look at it objectively but I find time and time again I simply cannot. It's the only one that makes sense to me, the only one that doesn't leave me an insecure, self-doubting, self-depricating mess. So even if it's wrong and even if no one agrees with me, I like the sense of security and safety in the full knowledge of the value I have. Not because I'm good, special, smart, or anything else I did or could do... but simply because He came to me and He told me so. And thanks to Him, I believe it.

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