What are you worth?

What are you worth?

Cherry Hamilton

4 July 2012

 

Slim pickings
 
Mexican telecoms tycoon, the ironically named Carlos Slim, is one of the richest men in the world, described as having a net worth of around $74 billion.
 
I'm sure Carlos has done some hard work in his life, but is he really 'worth' that much money? Is the homeless man outside the off-license worth nothing?
 
It got me thinking about our intrinsic value as human beings.  Do we have any and, if so, where can it be found?
 
Our physical body
 
So I completed an online test, giving details about my hair length, physique and how many glasses of wine I drank per a week. Apparently, dead, I am worth $5825.   Must cut back on that wine.
 
Other values for humans range from a measly $1 for the sum of our chemical elements to an impressive $45 million for useful parts from live donors.  (The latter being illegal, probably impossible and unlikely to result in sufficient health to enjoy the accumulated riches.)
 
Whatever we might believe about the value of human life, most of us know that, as Aristotle said, “The whole is more than the sum of its parts”.
 
Our capabilities
 
Meanwhile, Plato famously claimed, “Only in the contemplation of beauty is human life worth living.”
 
Maybe it's our intelligence and experience that makes us more valuable than horses, cats, mice, ants and bacteria.  But, what if a chimp is more intelligent than a baby or someone with a disability?  
 
Perhaps dolphins while away long hours contemplating the beauty of the oceans.
 
Our good deeds
 
Certainly, dedicating one's life to feeding famine victims or discovering the cure for cancer could be seen as a valuable thing.  
 
Yet the harsh truth is that, if human beings don't have value outside of our altruism, then our good works may do nothing but increase the problem of over-population.  
 
Our popularity
 
When a friend or family member dies, even a much-loved dog, we know they had value; they were valuable to us.  
 
But we, givers of worth, also live and die.  
 
Yet, I think we're getting closer.  If our value doesn't come from ourselves then it must come from that placed on us.
 
Our God
 
Without God, our options for measuring human worth are pitiful.  
 
In God we are valuable, not because of our wealth, attributes, capabilities, altruism or the capricious affections of other humans, but because our creator has placed a value on us.  He chose to make each of us in his image, challenging us to love each other as he loved us.
 
And that's a tall order.  Jesus forgave his enemies, made friends with outcasts and valued us enough to pay the ultimate price of death, giving us the opportunity to come back to him.
 
It is humbling and strange, disconcerting yet reassuring, to think that I am worth as much as Mother Theresa, yet no more than Robert Mugabe.  If I am to try to love others like Jesus loved me then I need to start by seeing each fellow human according to his or her true worth – priceless.