Previously, I considered Mt.13:44-46 which states, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.” This is a fundamental statement about establishing a value system from which we learn 1) the basic principle that people will go after and sacrifice for that which they perceive as valuable and 2) the only proper point of ultimate value is “the kingdom of heaven” or the kingdom of God with the focus on the king of the kingdom.
Jesus spoke of value at other times also. In Mt.12:10-14 we read, “And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’– so that they might accuse Him. And He said to them, ‘What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then He said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand!’ He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”
In the passage above we learn that human beings are more valuable, in the eyes of God, than sheep. Some human beings might not live as though they are more valuable than sheep; however, on an intrinsic level, this is the case. From this passage, we also see that man is more valuable than a legalistic system. A legalistic system derives its value, in part, from the value of man. Consider, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk.2:27). Law is designed to produce liberty and benefit, not legalistic bondage (which it will do when we construct our value system incorrectly).
A similar passage to that quoted above is “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Mt.10:28-31)
Here we see that human beings are not only more valuable than sheep but have greater value than birds also. It is safe to say that human beings are more valuable than the animal kingdom, in general. What makes this so? God, the being of supreme value, created us in His image.
When addressing the value of human beings it is always to be understood that we are not more valuable than God and His kingdom. When we lose sight of God’s supreme value, individually or corporately (in the realm of philosophy, education, civil government, etc.) we become “like a foolish man who built his house on the sand” (Mt.7:26). This is the central source of the immorality and turmoil we face as a culture. However, we are not to swing to an extreme that assumes that human beings have no value (or at least, underestimating the value of human beings). Sin, of all forms, involves raising the value of something above the value of God in a very practical way. This is what we essentially call idolatry. Paul commended the Thessalonians because they had “…turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God…” (1 Thes.1:9). He instructed the Corinthians to “flee from idolatry” and declared to the Colossians that they were to “…consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry… (Col3:5). Humanism is a powerful ideological mindset that raises the value of mankind (especially as a corporate entity) above the value of God.
Though we are to recognize the relative worth of human beings, our value is, and always will be, subordinate to God and His kingdom.
“One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, ‘What commandment is the foremost of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD; AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.'” (Mk.12:28-31)