The Fountain of Human Dignity

“You are worth about $3 in chemicals.”

–Carl Sagan (Cosmos)

It’s actually more like $9.34 when you adjust for inflation. You see, you are a collection of atoms; like Saturn, like an amoeba, like the melting ice cream lying in wait to sabotage your diet. Sure, you’re more articulate than the frozen [sugar laden] cow cream, but now who cares? Only time and better judgment stands in the way of your inevitable marriage, when the two become one and it’ll no longer be you and the ice cream, but just you. A collection of even more atoms. Maybe even $9.35 worth.

Is your significance determined by the sum desirability of your parts? Are you only as valuable as the chemicals that make up your frame? If I drink Goldschlager or have a cavity filled, did I just increase my essential worth? What if the demand for my component parts dries up? What then? Does Tony Robbins have a message for that?

Certainly we are more valuable than whatever the going rate is for Carbon, Hydrogen, Phosphorus, and the other raw elements that make up the composition of our bodies! After all, I am arranged in spectacular fashion! I am useful.

A piece of steel may cost you a buck. Make some forks out of it and you’ll increase it’s worth tenfold. Make a firearm, four hundredfold. The more useful the tool, the greater the value. Utility has to be what determines worth!

“Gold Jerry! Gold!”

–Seinfeld

Of course, babies don’t contribute much. Neither do the elderly. Or quadriplegics. And now that I think of it, neither do the vast majority of 30-something Call of Duty cybersoldiers. And what does this mean for The View, Politicians, Colorado fans, and other air-suckers that not only do nothing, but actually make matters worse?

Maybe I have this wrong. I mean, I know they’re beyond useless, but does that make them worthless? I just can’t imagine a world where we would discard people because of their inability to produce, or produce better than the next soul. Especially because one day I myself hope to be joyfully unproductive (in an industrial sense).

I have it! Worth is conferred to an individual when another individual finds pleasure in them. If you love your baby, you can keep it! Do you enjoy grandma’s company, wisdom, stories? She can stay! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and as long as you stay in society’s good graces, you are welcome to live! It’s flawless… flawless as long as you aren’t the Army veteran who lost his job, home, wife, children, friends, limb, mind, and his hope. Are we really ready to say that this hero has no worth because his selfless sacrifice left him without a penny to his name and anybody in his corner? If a whole society comes to the conclusion that a certain minority race of people are undesirable, has their worth been determined? Nullified?

If a man is betrayed by one of his closest friends and then abandoned by the rest to face a mockery of a trial, only to be sentenced to a manner of execution that could only be described as Hell on Earth, is this man worthless? Actually, anything but.

I hope by now you realize I don’t hold that one’s value is based on their elemental makeup, or their usefulness to society, or even how they are esteemed in the community. Such positions should be mocked. But the impetus for writing as I have (I apologize for the crassness), was to demonstrate that if you don’t start with God-given, intrinsic worth, you are left assigning value to humanity in these egregious ways or else denying it altogether.

The truth is, that man who was betrayed, deserted, mocked, beaten, tortured, and murdered was of infinite worth. He was of infinite worth because that man was God. You see, our worth is determined by what another thinks of us, namely The Creator. As an earthly king has, vested in himself, the prerogative to bestow honor and designate reproach, make famous and compel derision, so it is God’s prerogative to the ‘Nth’ degree. What God values is valuable, what He detests is detestable. He is the very definition of worth and so determines it for everything and everyone He has created and sustains. This is why it’s okay to eat cows and not your neighbor. God made man in His most precious image to be over all creation, blessed. A replica of a Rembrandt is not inexpensive, and is exceedingly more valuable than a rendering of Spongebob if done on the same canvas. If the cost of an original Rembrandt is stupendous, and the replica image costly, what worth ought we ascribe to a rendering of The Infinite?

And as if it weren’t enough, He chose to associate with man by becoming one; doubling down on His purposeful affinity for humanity- even subjecting Himself to unimaginable scorn at the hands of men and for their salvation. When you spill priceless blood to purchase a people for your own possession, what are they worth? I’m not confident you can count that high.

So let me put a bow on this. Unless you’re clinically insane, you believe humans have intrinsic worth. You’re not a commodity that your value should be dependent on your physical makeup. Nor are you chattel that your worth should be determined by your production. And if your value is conferred to you based on the subjective and ever-changing opinions of your fellow opinion-dependent counterparts, whoever amasses the strongest opinions or is most able to enforce their whims is capable of ruining your worth and erasing you from the realm of significance. Your belief that you have intrinsic worth is a true belief. It is a true belief because God exists and has fettered your worth to Himself. Deny it if you dare, just please don’t live consistent with that drivel.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. “

John 3:16

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