A lot of the problems that people have today, both externally (relationships with one another) and internally (relationship with self and internal thought processes) are rooted in the value we place on life, or more precisely, the *lack* of value that we place on life. Our never-ending quest for world peace, racism, even many of the problems we deal with on a daily basis, come about because we do not value life as we should.
This is strange, as one of our most deeply-held beliefs—not just as Christians, but as human beings—is that life is precious (at least, that’s what we say). In the Declaration of Independence, we say that all men are created equal and are endowed with rights—unalienable rights—including a right to life (and yes, I realize there are historical caveats to this). This idea is not unique or original to 18th-century America. As far as I’m aware, every civilization on earth objects to or objected to murder, even if the scope of what was considered murder differed. But yet, we demonstrate on a daily basis that we don’t always understand the value of a life.
Insurance companies and lawyers may value a human life in dollars and cents based on things like life expectancy, potential earnings, and potential cost, but the value of a life that we need to consider is more fundamental than that. The truth is that all life is valuable—indeed, all lives are *equally* valuable. But on what basis can we make such a statement?
In order to say that life is precious and has value, we must necessarily recognize the source of that value. Why is a piece of paper with certain properties and a picture of Benjamin Franklin worth $100? Because the United States Treasury has assigned that value to that piece of paper. I can’t decide that $100 bill is only worth $90 when someone wants to give me one in payment, nor that it is worth $110 if I choose to give one as payment. Similarly, a life has exactly the value that God gave it, and we cannot say that our life or any other life is worth more or less than that value.
Without this key reality, there is nothing to stop one person from thinking another to be of lesser value, or from one group of people to think less of another group of people. I understand the evolutionist/atheist argument that mankind is remarkably similar on a genetic level (see #2 here) supposedly making arguments of racism, etc., unlikely from the humanist perspective, but that still doesn’t remove my ability, were I so inclined, to dismiss another human being or group of human beings as being less than me for what difference in genetics there might be (or for other, perhaps non-genetic, reasons).
In contrast, recognizing that God assigns value to human life and that He has assigned the same value to each life eliminates my right to make a distinction in value. In Genesis 1.26–28, we see that God created man and gave him “dominion” (i.e., rule and authority) over all the other things that had been created. In Genesis 9, a specific prohibition on taking another human life was given. Psalm 8.5–8 describes man being made “a little lower than God.” In Matthew 6, we are told not to worry because God takes care for the birds of the air, etc., and “are not you of more value than they?”
But even more clearly, man’s value—and man’s equal value—is seen in God’s willingness to send His Son to die for us so that we can have a relationship with Him. John 3.16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” God thought enough of mankind and so desired a relationship with mankind that He did what few others would be willing to do. Romans 5.6–8 says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Peter pointed out that this sacrifice was not just for a few, but for all. When he preached to Cornelius, a Gentile, he began by saying, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10.34–35). Later he would point out that God does not wish “that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
What value does man have? As at least one preacher of my acquaintance has been known to say (he even has a sermon with this title), we are all “worth a Son” to God. We are all created in God’s image. We are all sought after by God to have a relationship with Him. He wants each one of us to dwell with Him eternally. No one can detract from that value.