the value of human life

What is the value of human life? I shutter to even ask the question, because even the question has an “economic overtone” that seems out of place with the idea of human life. You see, we have lost direction in the world, because we “value” economics and profit over human life. To even ask the question of “what is the value of human life?” means we seek to place a monetary value on the intrinsic reality of life; think about it, when you read the question you were in search of an answer that had a “dollar value” connected to it. When we think in terms of life having an “economic value” we seek to say, “There is a break even point” where a certain amount of human life loses is acceptable, even profitable.

The idea, for me, is not to determine the “value” of human life, but to shift the way we view what is and how we value other humans; we claim life has “value” yet we toss it aside as cheap. You see, we “value” our cars, more then we “value” the air we breathe; we “value” cheap food, more then we “value” the people picking it for us; we “value” our comforts, more then we do the comforts of others. We are willing to make changes as long as they do not “cost” us very much. We value what is good, right and just for us, but not for others; what we value must benefit us and if it causes harm to another it is of no concern to us, it is “the cost” of doing business. When we face issues like war, “illegal” immigration, abortion, poverty, slave trade, child abuse, prison reform, and many other issues facing us as a culture, and a world, the foundation of our answers can be seen in how we view human life.

For example, in the 20th century alone about 300 million people died because of wars, directly or indirectly. Think about that, 3 million people a year died for 100 years. Did you know that about 25 States have less then 3 million people each living in them? Killing 3 million people in one year would be like killing all the people in Hawaii, West Virginia, and Alaska, combined. It would be like killing everyone on the east coast from Vermont to Maine and toss in Maryland for good measure. 3 million people is more then the populations of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana – and many other Western States. So, what is the “value” of human life? To truly answer this question we need to rethink much of what we know from the 20th century.

Life can not be given an “economic” value, no matter how we try. I asked the question of “what is the value of human life?” to a friend and he quickly answered with the title of Arthur Porges short story from 1985, “$1.98; that is the value of all the chemicals in the human body.” But that is not what I asked. I was not concerned with the “value of the human body” I wanted to know the value of human life. In a society where human life is “valued” there is no trade off between economic gain and human life. If human life is simply added into the equation of “doing business” then we have lost our humanity and replaced it with greed.

When we place an economic value on life we cheapen life, and devalue God and we show future generations that human life is not worth holding on too. We place a “Darwinian” view on human life, and we place it is the same category as the value of a car, a boat, a toaster. As a follower of Jesus I can not, in any way shape of form, place an economic value on human life. Human life is a gift given by God and we should respect it above all else; if not we cheapen the gift and proclaim that God’s gift to us is based simply of the economics of the day. We should hold human life to be the highest of all endeavors we have as a society. As people of “The Way” we should be the loudest voices for the rights of all human life. We should place aside the social, economical, and cultural realities of human life and claim all human life is higher then any “value” placed upon it.

It matters little where you stand on issues being debated in our culture today. If human life is not valued, no change can ever be made. Think of how different a Pharmaceutical Company would be if they valued human life over the “rights of their share holders.” Think how different we would be as a society if we proclaimed that all human life has value and was worth the time to save. Think of where we would be as a people if Hospitals saw the patient over the profit. Think of how different our world would be if we just loved people for who they are, and valued them for just being them. Think how different we would be as a faith if we spent less on building buildings and more on building people.

So, does human life have value? More then anyone can possibly afford.


spamthewunderdog said...

I am greatly troubled by even the concept of "value" for anything. It seems to me that the very concept of value is at it's core arbitrary. What makes a dollar worth a dollar? Well, we would say that the price or value of Gold(in a very general sense) determines what monetary values are. Ok, well what determines the value of Gold? We would say that things are valued on their scarcity. Ok, well who decided that things that are scarce are worth more than things that are plentiful? See where I am going with this?

My understanding of the gospel, of Jesus, and of God is that God is seeking to redeem ALL of creation because it is ALL valuable. But that chief amongst creation in his eyes are his people. So we should seek God if we want to seek what value truly is.

the carnal christian said...

Speaking of the value of human life, John... nice design for ginkworld. I hadn't seen it until today. Are you all self-consciously modeling Leninist propaganda or is it just accident?

Long time, man.