The Value of a Human: An exploration

The Value of a Human: An exploration
By Jim Barringer

What are you worth? Where does your value come from; how can you know for sure that you have any at all; and how can you find out what it is? I have a few propositions to bounce off you. When I say value, I am referring to two things. First, I am referring to the question of whether or not you are worthwhile, whether the world is a better or worse place because you exist in it. If you have value and the world is better off with you, then your life matters. If you do not have value, you owe it to the rest of us to commit suicide. I am also addressing the question of how you personally feel about yourself. Do you have self-esteem, and if so, on what is it based? It doesn’t matter how valuable you think you are unless you have real value. If you have no real value, but think highly of yourself anyway, then you are deluded and out of your right mind. So now let’s talk about this idea of real value.

1. We are incapable of accurately determining our own value. A human cannot know what it means to be a worthwhile human. I say this because we view humanity subjectively; we are caught up in it, and all of our opinions about it are tainted by this. We don’t have an overhead view, so to speak; we only see our narrow part of humanity and cannot, beginning with only ourselves, explain the whole of humanity.

This is, essentially, the same reason why you cannot grade your own tests in school. Of course you think all your answers are correct. Of course you think you deserve 100%. It requires someone with a view of the bigger picture, someone who can measure your answers against an objective reality, in order to tell you which of your answers are truth and which are not. However, like I just said, no human has access to the objective reality, because every one of us views life subjectively. You cannot measure your own value against an objective reality if the only (subjective) reality you know is yourself.

2. Therefore, an accurate determination of our value must come from outside ourselves.

2a. However, if no human can determine his own value, then everyone is equally lost. Most people in your life, when they attempt to pass judgment on you, will in fact only compare you to themselves: their political views, cultural norms, personal beliefs, etcetera. They will judge your value and give you approval if you match their standard of value. But we have already established that no one can accurately determine his own value; that person has no logical grounds for holding up his own standards as “right” and judging other people based on how they compare.

2b. Because of this, no human is capable of accurately determining your value. If no one has an objectively accurate view of value, and if they are not capable of accurately determining their own value, then they are not capable of accurately determining your value either. In other words, if you think that your value is (in whole or in part) earned by you, based on your attributes (intelligence, skill, etc) or your accomplishments, you are committing a fallacy, because you are merely appealing to the judgment of people who have no objective view of what value means. If they approve of your actions, how can they know that your actions are worthy of approval? Even beyond all the reasons why people-pleasing is a bad idea, it’s a lose-lose situation, because you’re asking people to tell you who you are when they don’t even objectively know who they are. It’s the old parable about “the blind leading the blind.”

3. So, if value has to come from outside us, and can only be accurately determined in relationship to an objective definition of true value, then there must be an objective source and definition for true value, or value does not exist. Essentially, I am saying that unless there is a God who has defined what it means for a person to be valuable, then the word “value” is meaningless because it is merely referring to the collective hallucination of subjective humanity.

Yet, as I said, the question of whether you have value is one that must be resolved. If you do not have it then the world would be better off without you and you owe it to yourself and the rest of us to remove yourself from the earth. If you do not have it, then any attempt to feel good about yourself is misplaced because you are believing in a value that you do not have. The very fact that you (I am assuming) do not have a desire to commit suicide indicates that you believe you have value: you have, for some reason, a craving to continue existing. Therefore you believe you have value. How can you then determine what it is?

If you accept that our value must come from outside ourselves, then you accept two things:

a) that something outside us makes us valuable, and

b) that something outside us tells us what our value is.

This something, in turn, must have two qualities:

i) it must be objective; that is to say, not human, because it does not view humanity subjectively, and

ii) it must be infinite; that is to say, it must have an infinitely-accurate definition of value, and an infinitely-accurate way of determining your personal value.

The question is then returned to us: what in the universe is objective and infinite, apart from God? If we accept the above reasoning with regard to our value – that our value cannot be accurately, objectively determined either by ourselves or by other humans, but that we need value or else we cannot justify our continued existence – we have just reasoned ourself into the position of believing that there is nobody, besides an objective and infinite God, who can speak with definite authority on the value of a human being. There is no other possible source of value for people.

I lack the space to explain why this God is the God of the Bible and not of any other religion, but suffice it to say that the God of the Bible speaks to the issue of our value. We are worthwhile to him because he made us, which is why he wants our hearts to belong to him. Since he created all of life, including us, he knows what will make us most happy in life, and he is grieved when we chase after the approval of others, because he knows that’s not where value is. He wants our whole hearts. He wants us to be his.

The Bible then goes on to explain that “God showed his love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” No other religion makes such a statement about our worth to God. We matter so much to him, have such value in his eyes, that he was willing to sacrifice Jesus, the Son, the second member of the Trinity, in order that he and we can be reconciled. He has proven that we are valuable to him. The crucifixion and resurrection, real events in actual space-time history, are the evidence that we are valuable to the creator God of the universe.

Armed with this knowledge, that we are born with value because we are children of God, and that salvation comes merely from being reconciled to our father, I struggle to understand why anyone would want religion or morality to work any other way. Why disbelieve in God, and resign yourself to a life of struggling to prove yourself to other people, or insisting (with no logical basis) that you have value even though you cannot explain why? Why believe that “good people go to heaven,” and so enslave yourself to trying your hardest every day (and still failing) to be a moral enough person to impress an infinitely holy God? Isn’t it much more beautiful to know that God has done all the hard work already – loving you before you were lovable, and opening the door for you to be reconciled to him, leaving you only to embrace him as Father?

That is why you and I are valuable, not because of anything we do, not even because of how well we play the church game or follow God’s rules, but merely because he made us and his love, like everything else about him, is infinite.

Jim Barringer is a 26-year-old writer, musician, and teacher serving at The Church of Life (.com) in Orlando, FL. More of his work can be found at facebook.com/jmbarringer and ExtantMagazine.com. This work may be reprinted for any purpose so long as this bio and statement of copyright is included.

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