By Anthony Casperson
Perhaps you’ve recently believed the lie that you’re worthless. You look at yourself and only see the failures. You think you can’t do anything right. Your life seems a mess. The lie rattles around your brain that no one loves you, or ever could.
Perhaps someone else has acted in line with the lie that you’re worthless. They’ve told you to your face that you’re nothing. They ignore you and any work you put in. They exclude you from every get together and speak poorly of you without a chance for you to defend yourself. Through their actions or their words, they proclaim the lie that you could disappear and nothing would be different. In fact, it’d likely be better.
Perhaps you’ve believed and acted out the lie that someone else is worthless. You look at them as something different from you (whether it be because of their age, race, gender, belief system, political leanings, or any other dividing lines we create) and you see them with contempt. You believe the stereotypes and judge individuals based off of these generalized lies. You think them stupid for not seeing things your way and cancel them, believing that just like their perspectives, they have no value. Through your actions and words you proclaim that life would be better without them.
How much value does a human life have? Ours? The people in our social circles? The people we consider to be “them?” What is the worth of a single life?
The answers to those questions will differ depending on the perspective we believe. We who believe humanity was formed out of the dust of the earth by a creative God will have a different answer than those who believe that humanity came about because of a natural process of random events.
I recently heard a sermon where the preacher reminded those under his care that their worth was declared when God enfleshed himself in humanity and died for them. God says that humanity is worth dying for. That is our value. He desires to be in eternal relationship with our Creator.
While that statement is true, I had to ask why God would choose this path of salvation to rescue humanity from the effects of sin and death? Why were we so valuable to God that he’d suffer and die the most painful death devised by humanity for us, when he wouldn’t for any other created being? (Don’t forget there is no salvation plan for the fallen angels.)
Was there something about humanity that made us that valuable to God?
I believe that the value of humanity was set before the Creator moved the dust of the earth to form the first earthling. Before the first human took in the breath of God, the worth of humanity was declared.
In Genesis 1:26 God says “Let us make humanity in our image.” The concept of what being created in his image means has long been debated among we who follow Jesus. But I believe that the meaning can be found in the other uses of the word translated here as “image.”
About a third of the time this uncommon word is used in the Hebrew, it refers to humanity as the image of God. But in a couple of handfuls of other times (most of the rest of the time) it’s used as a descriptor of the images of false gods. A synonym and parallel of the more common word for idol.
So what this tells me is that when God said, “Let’s make humanity in our image,” what he said was, “Let’s make a representation of ourselves on the planet.” Essentially, “Let’s make our own idol.”
Now, I know some people are going to balk at this statement. This is the God who commanded that no graven image be made of him. The one who grew angry when the Israelite people crafted a golden calf and worshipped him through the idol.
Yes, I totally agree that God is dead set against crafting an image out of gold, silver, precious stones, wood, metal, and everything else humanity can think of to make something that we worship. It doesn’t matter if it’s a lifeless thing is meant to worship a false god or the real God. Those idols are sinful. And to worship anything (even that which represents him) other than God is equally condemned.
But those idols are often called out for being lifeless, motionless, breathless. We should never make an idol, an earthly representative of God, because he has already created his representatives on this planet: humanity. He not only crafted an image of himself, he made one that lives and moves and breathes. An idol far beyond anything humanity could devise on their own.
But what does this have to do with the value of a human life?
Think about this, in the worship of false gods, when an idol is mishandled or disrespected, it is considered to be an act of defiance and rebellion against the false god it represents. It’s a dare for that supposed being to show its power against us. If that is thought to be true of the false god created by human hands, how much more is it true of humanity created by the real God’s hands?
To malign and disrespect one of our fellow human beings, in any way, is to act as though we were treating God that way. Every human being, broken and marred images that we may be, is a representation of the Creator of the universe. How we treat his image-bearers, his idols, shows what we think of him. To mistreat our fellow human beings (or ourselves) in any way outside of the respect deserved by the one whom we represent, is a slap across the face of God. It’s an act of defiance against him.
Our value and worth is not intrinsic to ourselves, but is based on how valuable and worthwhile the one we represent is. God is magnificent and worthy of all honor and glory. Nothing would exist without him, so every created thing owes its existence to him.
And we represent him in this creation.
Why did God choose to suffer a horrific and painful death for us? When he decided to make his own image, when he breathed life into that mound of dust and dirt, he implanted his own value and worth in us.
How much is a single human life worth? More than the rest of the universe, because that person represents the God whose value is beyond everything ever created.
Let’s think about that when the lies bounce around in our heads that makes us believe we have no worth. Let’s think about that when others act as though we have no value. And let’s think about that when we see one of “them” and treat that image-bearer of God with contempt for even existing.
How we treat a single human life betrays what we believe about the one they represent.