The phrase “net worth” is something that we hear from time to time – usually in reference to the sum total of the income, assets, and investments that are owned by a celebrity or other public figure who is extraordinarily wealthy. This topic is often particularly discussed when such a person passes away and their estate is being surveyed by inheritors and eyed by creditors. But can the “net worth” of a human being really be valued in dollars and cents? What makes a person truly valuable?
In response to these questions, consider these thoughts that I came across this morning while searching for something else in some notes that I had previously collected for a Bible study on the Book of Isaiah – in particular, the thirteenth chapter of that prophet’s writings, where we read, “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.” These thoughts have been adapted from the pen of an author by the name of Gladden, as they were found in a compilation of writings that was published in 1900.
“One who listens to the talk of the street and the shops might easily get the impression that the value of man is a subject of general interest. ‘How much is he worth?’ is a question often heard. What answers do you hear? ‘He is worth five thousand dollars’ – or ten thousand, or a million, or ten millions. And of one and another, it is said – with a mixture of pity and contempt – ‘He is not worth anything!’ …
“May it not be well to go a little deeper into the meaning of this phrase; and to ask with all seriousness – not concerning this man or that man, but concerning any man and every man – ‘How much is he worth?’
“Man is worth more than his institutions. Many persons have supposed that the chief end of man was to support certain institutions. We get many hints of this error in our study of the people whose history is contained in the Bible. They thought that their ceremonial law was vastly more sacred than the men who worshiped by the means of it. If their ritual obstructed human growth, crippled virtue, or killed charity – no matter! These must stand back, and let the ritual be exalted! And when Christ told them that the Sabbath Day was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath; and that men were worth more than all this ritual machinery – they were astonished and scandalized; they called Him a blasphemer!
“This is no singular phenomenon. History is full of the outworking of this tendency. All over the world, and all along the ages, men have been made the slaves of systems. When Christ came, His teachings were so entirely out of harmony with this notion, that the people were fairly bewildered by them. And what has been said of religious systems is equally true of political systems. There is and always has been a prevalent notion that people were made for governments, and not governments for people – that it is more important that certain dynasties should reign, or that certain political institutions should be kept intact, or that certain parties should remain in power, or that certain policies should be adopted; than that men should be free and wise and good and prosperous. It is not true that human institutions are of no value, for they are often of great value. But they are not ends; they are instruments. It follows that those systems are best, which best assist the development of humanity.
“Man is worth more than his costliest possessions. This is another of those truths which is often upon our lips, but not more than half-believed. Evidence of this is visible in the respect that is paid to wealth – even when it is joined to one who is a sorry picture of true manhood, and when it is the spoil that has been won by the debasement of humanity. How plain are the proofs before our faces, every day, that the multitudes do not believe a man to be more precious than gold! And it is not the rich alone whose judgment goes astray in this matter, for the poor often fall into the same error. They say that money does not make the man. But they usually say it angrily and bitterly; and their conduct often shows that they think, after all, that money does make the man. Their envy of the rich convicts them.
“Even in our own conduct, are there not sometimes clear illustrations of this fact? Do we not often find ourselves preferring gold to manhood – laboring more diligently to enlarge our possessions, than to improve ourselves? It is not true that property is of no importance at all; but man’s belongings are only good, in proportion as they assist in the development of his character.
“It is because of his kinship to God that man is naturally of such illustrious worth. And nothing seems more certain than the fact that these powers may – by disuse or misuse – be impaired and finally lost. If a man cuts himself off from the ultimate Source of all light and love; he shall find himself deserted by all generous impulses and holy aspirations, and left to grovel in the mire of selfishness and carnality.
“‘How much was he worth when he died?’ someone may ask. What if this was the answer: ‘He would have been the heir of immortality, but he sold his birthright for a song!’”
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God bless you and your family, this day and always.
All for the King’s glory,
photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash