Monday, August 15, 2011

Three Sources of Worth

Back in college there were a number of classes that I had to take that met requirements but seemed pretty worthless at the time - I place Anthropology in the list of worthless classes but Film Appreciation was awesome. In my UNC-Chapel Hill class, Introduction to Ethics, we can assume Christianity wouldn't be the accepted cultural worldview, so one goofy question caught me off guard when I was asked to argue it.  Why is it that killing and eating animals is all right but killing or especially eating people is not, is it not just species bias that makes us think we are better than animals?  If you take belief in a God who created humans in His image out of the picture then it becomes pretty tough to come up with a valid reason why chickens and humans shouldn't have equal rights.  You can't even go with the argument that we are stronger and smarter or we have to say aliens should have the right to kill and eat us if they are smarter, or that killing babies, mentally retarded people, or anyone less strong or intelligent must be OK.  So why are we as humans better than any other animals in creation?  Well, we are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God, with infinite worth and value because of the spark of the divine within us - period.

If we take this to be true then it keeps us from finding our worth, value, or acceptability in anything other than His image - our race, our possessions, our status, our education, our job, our family, etc.  Anything else we could base our worth and value in can be taken from us, as the storms come and destroy the house built on the sand, only the strong foundation of our Imago Dei can withstand the trials and tribulations of life.  What happens when we get let go from the job we gave our best to for thirty years, when our last child heads off to college and we are no longer just a Mom, when Alzheimer's threatens to steal what we have stored up in the treasury of our minds - our very identities are threatened unless the foundation was seeing ourselves as God see's us.

Problem is most of us buy this for everyone else in the world, just not us.  You would never kill or even intentionally hurt another person because you see others as having worth and value just for being a human being created in the image of God.  It's just us, we are somehow inferior to others and don't have the same worth and value.  If the above viewpoint is the truth then there are two lies that threaten to steal our worth and value in our own eyes.  The first lie is Ascribed Value - we are only as valuable as what other people say about us.  Gold has value because people decide that it has value, not because it is particularly useful - it's too malleable to make any decent tool out of but we pay tons of money for it and fearful Americans are pouring their life savings into it.  But what if tomorrow we just decided gold wasn't all that great?  It would cease to have value.  If that is our view of ourselves then we need to do everything we can to sway the opinions of those around us - please as many people as possible, have as little conflict as possible, and work hard to get people to like us.  Our view of ourselves will be a roller coaster depending on who we are around - in one group we are valued and deemed worthy but around someone else we are nearly worthless, our value is like the stock market, constantly in flux.

The second lie we could believe is that of Utilitarian Value - that we are only as valuable as what we are able to do.  Like a shovel we have value because we can be used to do stuff for people, so the more we accomplish, the more we do for others, the more value we have.  But what if we are going through a busy or difficult time and can not do as much for other people, do we feel bad and lose worth?  If we are in a car accident and are paralyzed and can never do anything for anyone or even ourselves, do we cease to have value?  We become human doers, not human beings, constantly striving to do enough to be deemed worthy in our own eyes, but we can never do enough.  Ultimately this was the lie of the Nazi's, that in order to create a better nation you must only kill off any humans who can't make it stronger, anyone considered weak.  So maybe you start with the physically and mentally disabled, those considered inferior like Jews, homosexuals, and gypsies, and eventually just the Aryan race is left.

We don't have worth and value because other people say so, we don't have it because of what we are able to do, we have worth and value because we are human beings and humans were created unique and special by God to bear his image and accomplish great things in his name.  This applies to all humans, even you.  The only way our worth can be static and defined is if humans, those around us or ourselves, don't get to decide our value - God does.


  1. So........did you write this after talking to me.......thanks for letting me think that..... I feel so much more/less important now.......I LOVE THAT GOD DECIDES!!!!!!!!!!