How Much Is Human Life Worth?
Plain Truth Magazine
June 1985
Volume: Vol 50, No.5
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How Much Is Human Life Worth?

How should we measure the value of human life?

   LIFE is infinitely more precious now!" exclaimed Margaret Thatcher after escaping the Brighton bomb.
   But not everywhere is life precious!
   "Life is cheap in Mexico," wrote Bruno Lopez from San Juan Ixhuatepec. His remark was in reference to damage payments for the massive 1984 gas explosion near Mexico City. A grieving widow couldn't believe her husband's life was worth only two million pesos (US $8,800).
   In the United States a contract killer in the Bronx charges $5,000 for a routine assassination. The German Democratic Republic may assess Bonn DM 60,000 (US $20,000) for a political prisoner from behind the Iron Curtain. A British judge awards a farm father 6,000 damages for a son killed by falling power cables.
   A surrogate mother charges an agreed-upon sum of money to bear a child for an infertile wife. A medic charges a young woman a fixed fee to abort her unborn baby. Kidney dialysis treatment is canceled because the state can no longer afford the cost of expensive treatment for an unemployed manual laborer. The list of monetary value of human life goes on and on.

Appraising Human Worth

   How do we appraise the value of human life? In this materialistic world, money seems to be the sole standard of measurement. Cost-benefit ratios are the norm. Human safety, for instance, is usually measured against affordable costs. No more should be spent on safeguards than people are worth! Appraisers coolly value human lives like so many pieces of property.
   Everything and everyone seems to have a price. Given the age we live in, perhaps we humans have little choice in the matter.
   But should the worth of a human being be valued solely in economic terms? Do not humans have intrinsic worth quite apart from "filthy lucre"? Can one put a price on human dignity?
   The answer depends on whether there is a God. If God made us in his image our ultimate value suddenly becomes incalculable. But if man is merely the product of a fortuitous accident, then perhaps he is disposable — and without any lasting value. If man is only a blind — chance arrangement of complex molecules, then perhaps his true worth should be measured in economic terms.
   It used to be said that the purely physical properties of the human body were only worth a pitifully small sum of money. But in recent years a University of Washington animal researcher has challenged that thinking. Daniel A. Sadoff has said that "the current market value of all enzymes, hormones, minerals and other chemicals and compounds in the body actually exceeds $1 million" (Geo, September 1983).
   There is, however, no practical way to convert that worth into cash — that is, aside from the price of a pint of blood or donated organs.
   But even a million dollars or a million pounds a head is peanuts if there is a God and he made humankind in his image. It is time we take a look at the revealed knowledge in the biblical record.

In the Image of God?

   In the creation account, "God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness...'" (Gen. 1:26, Revised Standard Version throughout). This was not said about any other mammal — or bird or sea creature. Only about man.
   Continue: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (verse 27). No sex discrimination here. Men and women are of equal value in God's sight-notwithstanding necessary biological role assignments in this world (see Ephesians 5:21-32).
   At the onset of man's creation, God makes it absolutely clear that men and women are of great value. Humankind has the potential to rule over the earth and everything in it (verse 28).
   But the Bible reveals much more.
   King David ruled ancient Israel for 40 years. But he was much more than a king. He composed the words and music of many wonderful songs. David has been called "the sweet psalmist of Israel" — "a man after God's own heart" — "one who ruled justly in the fear of God" — and all for good reason. This ancient king possessed unique insight into God's plan and purpose for mankind.
   King David wrote: "What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him? Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet" (Ps. 8:4-6).
   David reveals that men and women are made in the image of God — albeit a little lower than God for the present. God is eternal and immortal; man is physical and mortal. Yet he is to rule — with God over all of God's creation and to be crowned with glory and honor.
   His potential is incredible. His worth incalculable. His existence priceless!

Man's Present Plight

   One of Job's friends said, "Man drinks iniquity like water." How poetically true. Man is the one visible lawless element in an organized earth. Left to himself, and under the sway of an invisible devil, he would destroy everything in sight. Nothing in God's creation would be safe.
   Man is even estranged from the works of his own hands. Take a fairly recent news report from The Wall Street Journal. The title caption reads: "Filthy Humans Pose a Major Challenge to Computer Firms." The text itself goes on to explain: "At rest a person sheds at least 1 00,000 particles a minute of flaking flesh, saliva, hair sprays, rouge, dried shaving cream, dandruff, droplets, lint, sodium and dead mouth's tissue. With slight movement the same person sheds 500,000 particles. Slow walking, five million. Exercising, 30 million."
   Sounds filthy — and it is! No wonder the apostle Paul referred to "our vile bodies" in comparison to the spirit' — composed bodies we shall receive.
   The Wall Street Journal reporter Erik Larson says that human body particles are causing computers problems. He writes that "each particle is capable of destroying a semiconductor circuit, the 'chip' that makes computers think."
   R. Michael Starnes, a vice-president at Cypress Semiconductor Corporation, said: "My conclusion as an engineer was the human was so filthy it was pointless to try to clean him up." Air showers have been tried. Expensive clean rooms have been constructed. Anything to clean a human being up.
   Continues the insightful Journal article: "Semiconductor companies worry about people, the gum they chew, the colds they get, the makeup they wear, the speed with which they move. These things all mean trouble for semiconductors.... Particles mean defects, and defects cut right into company profits" (WSJ, January 3, 1985).
   Now we return to the nub of the matter. Money. Profits. Mammon. Materialism. Human bodies cut into company profits. About now we don't seem worth a whole lot.
   But let's not get hung up on short-term thinking. Only when we take the long view do matters begin to make sense.

Paul to the Rescue

   The apostle Paul did some tall thinking about David's age-old insight into God's great purpose for man. To this he added his own God-given understanding. It's recorded for us in the New Testament book of Hebrews.
   In speaking of our incredible human potential, Paul wrote: "For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking" (Heb. 2:5). The topic addressed here is the wonderful world tomorrow we announce in the pages of The Plain Truth.
   Who is to rule? What are the plans? What is God's purpose?
   Here Paul paraphrases David: "It has been testified somewhere, 'What is man that thou art mindful of him...? Thou didst make him for a little while lower than the angels [or for a little while lower than God], thou hast crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet'" (verses 6-8, excerpts).
   Having completed David's account, Paul then adds fresh insight to the subject: "Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him."
   Do you grasp what this means? Man is ultimately to rule over the whole universe when God crowns him with glory and honor. In the coming age the human inborn quest for understanding the universe shall finally be satisfied.
   But back to the present. We have to live in today's world. We have to learn to cope with this present time. It is not always easy. Fortunately the apostle Paul was not unaware of our plight. He continues: "But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone" (verse 9). Jesus is our forerunner — the "firstborn of many brethren" — the "author and finisher of our salvation."
   How are filthy humans — and we speak spiritually — to be cleaned up? How do they become fit to rule in the world tomorrow? Who cleans them up — and helps them on the way?
   Why, Jesus Christ of course!
   We human beings tend to see things in bits and pieces. That's our trouble. We often lack the total picture. We don't possess an overall view.
   But all these concepts do finally fit together into a perfect picture. Man's present plight — his sense of lack of self-worth — God's plan to clean him up — his rulership in the world tomorrow. Each aspect is essential to a grand master plan.

How Precious Is Human Life!

   When British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher narrowly escaped serious injury, and even death, her view of life changed. Just being alive was more precious than before. Temporary discomforts suddenly became unimportant. Life now had deeper meaning. She resolved to live more fully — more dynamically — more gratefully. Life — in a word — became priceless!
   What about you? Are you living up to your human potential? Have you grasped why God had you born? Do you realize your ultimate worth?
   If you think your life was just an accident, you need to read our free booklet titled Why Were You Born? It will open your eyes!

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Plain Truth MagazineJune 1985Vol 50, No.5