Life is important. Our society still hasn’t got a grip on this fact. All life is created by God and is important to God. And if it is important to God, it needs to be important to us. I’m not sure if there has ever been a time in human history where life was not considered important to some degree. But if I had to define that degree a little I would say there is a point where people are much more interested in their own life, and the pleasures of that life, than they are about life in general, meaning the life of others in relation to them. There have been repeated times and places in history where human life, and all life for that matter, has become cheap to those in power. Rarely has a person’s life become cheap to himself but, often, the lives of those around him are cheap in comparison. This happens when we begin to value one human life more or less than another.
The movie Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, has the highest body count of any movie ever released. In that movie we see the deaths of 836 people. 836 is a lot of death to see, real or not. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie but it is a part of a trend we’ve seen over the years where life is easily thrown away in movies. We see this in video games, too, and there are calls by many people to consider the consequences of handling human life in so cavalier a manner. Some are worried that our kids are being desensitized to human death because it is handled in such a way in what we allow them to watch and play. I watched a documentary a couple years ago that talked about this issue and noted that one of the problems is we are putting in ever more detail into characters we kill in shoot-em-up games. We’ve gone from poor graphics where a character doesn’t look very real to hi-resolution graphics where not only can you see the face of the character you are killing, but you also see expressions and pain. The fear is that our children are becoming so desensitized to the killing of a life that they may have a tendency to become much more anti-social. In a Christian sense we would say their consciences are being seared by what they are seeing and they will value life less as a result.
Now we all know we can’t make that statement true 100% of the time. Certainly not all kids are becoming more anti-social and desensitized to the killing of life. We may be seeing a general trend but I still believe the majority of people in society are not desensitized enough to not care about the lives of those around them. And yet we are seeing greater numbers who are. Is this all due to movies and video games becoming more violent? Of course not. It may well be that these things are simply indicators of where our society currently is on the issues of the value of life and human dignity rather than just participating factors. The point to all this is that we need to be careful about cheapening life. We don’t have that right.
This is an interesting point of contention in our society today. As members of the human race, do we have the right to assign value to human life? After all, we are those very humans we are assigning value too. Yet I submit to you that when humans are put in charge of human life, one human will value his or her life more than the lives of those around them. I know it’s normal to place high value on your own life above those around you. It’s a survival instinct. Of course, it’s one thing to value one life more highly than another and quite another to the point of preferring your own pleasures over the lives of those around you. For humanity, the line is crossed quickly from basic survival instinct to pushing people down in order to indulge oneself. This begins a basic devaluing of human life other than our own.
So this is where we begin to shift from our first statement that “All life is created by God and is important to God.” We have to take it to the next step. “All life has value and dignity endowed by the Creator.” This next step reminds us that value and dignity come from God and is bound in every life. Every life, not just human. We are reminded that life is important because God created it. He places value on it, not us. So when we cheapen life, we are violating a very deep principle and we are overstepping our basic rights.
Let’s consider the creation account in Genesis 1:20-27 for a moment. “20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.
24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
God created life and, as such, all life has value and dignity endowed by the Creator. The very next verses then show that God has endowed us with this basic trust. A trust in which we are given responsibility for the life around us and for holding onto that basic value and dignity which God has placed in it. Life is a sacred trust given to us by God and we must treat it as He does.
This is why we talk about things such as abortion and euthanasia. This is why these things are about more than a woman’s right to choose or assisting in another’s suicide. This is why we talk about the problem of human trafficking. This is why we treat others the way we want to be treated no matter what they look or act like. This is why we call a sin a sin and encourage those around us to accept Jesus and His righteousness. Life is a sacred trust given to us by God.
Our society is heading down a path taken by many cultures before us. It seems to be a basic human tendency to devalue and cheapen life to the point where it is no longer respected anywhere near the level God intends it to be. So much so that it becomes a barometer by which we can detect and predict culture shifts and governmental changes in society. Nations come and go according to how well they value human life. So while we may never see America a completely Christian nation, if it does not get a grip on where it is going with regards to valuing life it, too, shall soon pass away in favor of a nation that does. This basic value, the sanctity of life, will drive people to push those who do not value life appropriately out of power. It was Alexis de Toqueville who said “America is great because America is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.” We’ve watched this drama unfold in many countries even in our lifetime. America is no different when it comes to God’s expectations in holding onto that sacred trust.
Governments come and go but life and its basic principles remain. Life will always have value and dignity no matter what any of us do with it because that value and dignity comes from the Creator, not the created.
My desire is to remind us of this sacred trust. To remind us of the basic principle that all life has value and dignity that comes from its Creator. Value is not bound up in how much we accomplish in society or how much we fail. It is not bound up in what color we are or how good we look according to the ever-changing standards of our culture. It is not bound up in what the person next to me thinks of me nor of what I think of me. It is not bound up in how I treat others or how others treat me. Value and dignity come from our Creator.
In Psalm 139:13-14, David says, “13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
The application from this message is very broad. Perhaps we can sum it up in the Golden Rule. Jesus told us to treat others as we would have them treat us. At each moment, in our interactions with the people around us, we have the opportunity to value or devalue life. We can treat others with dignity or not. We have that choice. Just remember that how you treat someone has no bearing on their actual value and you should always treat everyone as if they have tremendous value. Therefore we would do well to remember that God wants us to treat the sanctity of life with the same respect that is due Him. Look at the person next to you. Look at the poorest of the poor. Look at the richest of the rich. Look at the hungry, the needy, the dirty, the marginalized – that person has value and dignity that comes from God Himself and that value and dignity needs to be respected in such a manner as is fitting to the sacred trust God has given us with regards to all life.
The Scriptures hold so many aids in valuing life. From the ways in which we are to treat others to the ways in which we are to treat ourselves. Treat others as you would have them treat you. Treat them with dignity and respect. Treat them as if you understand the value God has given them because life is sacred.