Meditations in Meaning & Values 27. Assessing Value
Gal 5:2 I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all
We have started to think about ‘values’. We noted that laws flow out of values. We considered that we need to identify values but even more importantly, where they come from, their origin. We also observed that many people simply adopt other people’s values, often those of celebrities or ‘big names’. We concluded the last meditation by starting to ponder about love being a basic foundation for values and God being the ultimate source of love, but what if you remove God? Can you have love, can you have values without God? Well the obvious answer is yes, of course you can, because there are nations that do not know God but still have laws, and those laws suggest they have values.
You may wonder why we have chosen the above verse with the apostle Paul speaking of circumcision. Well essentially what he was saying was that if you were a Jewish Christian and you relied upon circumcision to establish your relationship with God (as Abraham did) then you had no need of Christ. Now we can go a stage further in this consideration of values and say that many people have desires to be ‘good’ but work to achieve that appearance of goodness and acceptance by others, and so their ‘efforts’ mean they don’t turn to God for His help or His way of bringing about goodness or righteousness. We can substitute activity for God, and this is what many people do, and in so doing they reveal that in theory at least they hold to certain values. They value the activity more than they value God, or God’s way of doing things.
A basic dictionary definition of ‘value’ starts with worth, what we assess the worth of someone or something. We find that usage in the early part of the Bible in Leviticus where it was possible for Israelites wanting to dedicate themselves to the Lord, to give money instead of themselves. Thus you find, “The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: `If anyone makes a special vow to dedicate persons to the LORD by giving equivalent values, set the value of a male between the ages of twenty and sixty at fifty shekels of silver, according to the sanctuary shekel; and if it is a female, set her value at thirty shekels.” (Lev 27:1-4) Now I’m sure many of us leap up at the apparent demoting of women but I would suggest that in those days it was simply because the man was the breadwinner and the protector who even went to war to protect his family. In crudely practical terms, if he died it would be a greater loss and would threaten the very existence of that family (remember, in those days) than if the wife died and whose caring functions could be replaced by a servant.
I would also suggest there is an additional thing, that God knows men need additional esteem. I believe women (and in that society it would be most women of child bearing age) knew their worth the moment they had had a baby. The worth of this life bringer and one who will nurture the life into adulthood cannot be measured. We play down this function and in our misguided-values society we place more value on a ‘career’ as if working in a shop or wherever else is a greater career that raising a human life. But that is how we skew values today!
There, already in the consideration we have been considering the value of human life and of human gender, but it is what we all do subconsciously all the time and we show it by the way we respond to people.
I have always been struck by the way the apostle Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders when he said, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) The more you pay for something the more you will value it or the more value is attributed to it. Now suppose my wife had a ring that I had given to her at our wedding. She will no doubt value it. Now suppose we are robbed at gunpoint and the robbers take my wife’s ring and I chase them to get it back – and do retain it – but get shot and die in the process. I would suggest that that ring multiplies in value to her as not only a reminder to her of our wedding day, but also of the day I gave my life for it for her. If Jesus bought the church with his blood (and he did!) then what must he feel about us? The appropriate word, I believe is we are precious to him.
I suspect value – meaning in this context, worth – can be estimated by the amount you input into something. Parents when they look at their child graduating from university, say, look on with pride but so often with nostalgic memories, thinking back to all those things that made up the life of that child now a young person, the times of crisis (and staying awake watching over them all night) and the times of joy (when they won their first swimming certificate). I am sure that part of their ‘valuing’ this young person is linked with all that they have put into them.
It is true in so many aspects of life. Here is the man or woman who has just been praised for the wonderful garden they have. They seek to shrug it off but deep down they look at this garden remembering how when they first came there it was a wilderness of grass and brambles and weeds. Hours and hours and hours of hard work have gone into this garden to make it the wonder that it is now. How can you value that? Similarly how can you value this painting that the artist has told me took fifty hours to create? An aged artist was challenged over why his masterpiece paintings cost so much. He simply replied, you are paying for fifty years of experience.
Here’s a question for us Christians: how much do you value the work of Christ on the Cross, this work which was planned in detail from before the foundation of the world, hinted at through the period of the Old Testament, brought to earth by Jesus the Son of God, fulfilled at Calvary on Good Friday and ratified on Easter Sunday? Have these truths so impacted us that we see the wonder and we see the cost to God of them and therefore we hold on to them as precious? How much do we value this work of God? Value appears in all aspects of live and no more so than in the Christian context.