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What Are People Worth? | Theology Matters

  • May 2010 Issue
Practical Theology

Two kinds of value exist in the world. Intrinsic value is calculated based on the inherent nature or worth of a thing itself. Assigned value is determined by what others are willing to pay. When it comes to people, both kinds of value apply. According to Jesus, people have intrinsic value in God’s eyes; they are “worth” something. Jesus used understatement to make this point in Matthew 10:29–31, when He comforted His disciples by saying, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Jesus’ words in these verses describe our worth, and they also imply God’s priority. People and animals are both “worth” something to God. But people are worth more. God, who values all creatures, values humanity especially. Jesus made a similar point in Matthew 12:11–12, when He chided the Pharisees after they criticized Him for healing on the Sabbath: “He said to them, ‘If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’” People have intrinsic value because they have been created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27; James 3:9).

While all people have intrinsic value in God’s eyes, those who belong to Christ have special value. They were purchased at great cost with the Savior’s blood (Rev. 5:9). It is this “assigned” value that Scripture uses to motivate believers to honor God with their bodies and not to become enslaved to others (1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Cor. 7:23). This understanding affects the way we view the church as much as it does the way we view ourselves. The church has value because Christ purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Recognizing that such a high price was paid leaves no space for pride. Instead, it ought to lead to humility. By purchasing the church with His blood, Christ has acquired it for Himself. The church is not ours to command; it belongs to Christ. Neither are we our own—we have been bought with a price.

For Further Reading
To learn more about the biblical view of man, read The Christian View of Man by J. Gresham Machen (Banner of Truth).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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