Beckett: What is Human Worth?

What gives a human being worth? Is worth intrinsic or extrinsic? These are important questions for us as Christians to be able to answer. Let’s first examine how the world places worth on human life, which is altogether limited.

If a person can positively contribute to society, they think, this person has worth. Yet this severely dampens the inherent worth of the severely autistic, dementias, those with Down’s syndrome, and others. They also limit the value of human life—or personhood—to minuscule things like brain waves and a heartbeat. If all we are is a blob of cells consisting of brain wave emissions and a working vital organ, it is no wonder why it is remarkably easy for the pro-choice to dehumanise babies in the womb. For if all our worth depends on how well our vital organs function or how well we think and behave according to the norms and mores of society, what does it matter how we treat another human being? Where do we draw the line? Apparently, that line goes into the womb, at least for now. Serial killers and other sociopaths dehumanise their victims in order to justify murder. The pro-choice are no different.

Is Worth Intrinsic or Extrinsic?

The Christian answer to the question of worth is rather simple. Ask yourself the question, “Are they human?” And when you answer “yes,” you have the same answer to the question of their worth. There is the temptation to complicate the question, “Are they human?” This is why they’ve limited humanity to vital organ and higher cognitive functions. But when you look at them—whether in physical appearance or microscopically at their DNA—are they human? The answer will always be yes.

Yet where does worth come from? Why does being human make us worth anything—any more than the worth of a plant, insect, or dog? Is worth intrinsic—that is, does it come from within? The world would say yes, but these same people rob the intrinsic worth of unborn babies as well as those who are severely disabled, whether physically or mentally. Or is worth extrinsic—that is, does it come from outside ourselves, from someone else? The world would say no, for they pride themselves on free human choice and discovery; but these same people impose extrinsic worth upon others according to their own measurements.

The Christian answer is not an either/or answer but a both/and answer. Nevertheless, there is an order to it, as it is characteristic of God to create things in order—that is, things in their proper place (e.g., husband and wife). Human worth is first and foremost extrinsic—and there is a dual extrinsic worth—both of which inform our intrinsic worth.

Extrinsic Worth Informs Intrinsic Worth

Our first extrinsic worth comes from Creation. God created humans—and only humans—in His image (Genesis 1:26-27); this is what sets us apart from every plant, insect, and beast of land, sea, and sky. This gives humans immediate value—immediate worth—to God, believer or unbeliever, born or unborn, abled or disabled. So valuable are we to God that the price for taking human life is your own life (Genesis 9:6). This first extrinsic worth from God informs everyone’s intrinsic worth. How do you know your life—or someone else’s life—is worth anything despite all your failings, disabilities, brokenness, and so forth? Because you’re human, which means God created you in His image, which means He loves you. You have worth because you were created with worth. God loves to create and He loves what He creates.

Our second extrinsic worth comes from Baptism. God creates every human in His image, but not every human is His child. Although we are all born in God’s image, all of us are also born into sin inherited from our first parents, Adam and Eve (Romans 5:12). This is why Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:5-6).

Therefore, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died to sin has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him… So, you must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:3-8, 11).

And, “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). The only way to become God’s child is to be baptised in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).

This second extrinsic worth from God informs the Christian’s intrinsic worth. Though the Christian has died to sin in their Baptism and has thus been freed from its jaws, we still experience sin in a sinful world. Like everyone else, we also suffer with feelings of worthlessness and meaninglessness, among many other things. So, dear Christian, how do you know you’re worth anything? Not only are you, like every other human being, created in God’s image, but you have something much more special: You have been baptised into Christ, which means God has made you His child; and it also means He has restored His image to you, which was lost at the Fall in the narrow sense of knowing and serving God (wide sense = humans are rational beings). Like a lost orphan, God has taken you in. Like the parent who has adopted a child and places their last name upon them as their newfound identity, so God has placed His name upon you—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—as your newfound identity.

Fathers Love Their Children because They’re Worth Everything

Ask yourself this, “What father does not love his child?” God is not of this world, so throw away your rebuttals of abusive and absent fathers in this sinful world. All things being equal—all things being perfect—what father does not love his child? God is perfect, and He loves you—His son, His daughter. God cannot sin; He will not abuse you, neither will He be absent. Consider Jesus’ words, “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

Thus, for the Christian, from where does our worth come? We answer, “I am a baptised child of God. I am God’s son,” “I am God’s daughter.” And as Luther wrote on the beginning words of the Lord’s Prayer, “Our Father,”: “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father” (SC, Lord’s Prayer). Only humans with such immense worth placed upon them by the Creator of the universe are treated so preciously.

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