August 31 – The Value of Life

August 31 – The Value of Life

Psalm 139:13-14

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:13-14)

Suicide and euthanasia, like abortion and infanticide, have generated intense controversy because of changing attitudes in Western civilization. As with abortion and infanticide, Scripture does not address the issues directly. Until recently, the major church bodies have always condemned all four activities as violations of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Not all societies have condemned suicide and euthanasia. In Japan, for example, suicide to expiate one’s lost or threatened honor is heroic. Even as an escape from intolerable circumstances, suicide is quite acceptable. Japanese Christians have told me of the ecstatic feeling of freedom they experienced in their pre-Christian days as they journeyed to some special scenic spot, hallowed as the trysting place with death by countless suicides, and of their disappointment when their plan for suicide was thwarted.

Now, increasing numbers in the West espouse similar views. Societies that endorse suicide produce detailed handbooks on how it may best be committed. Scholars in heavy tomes and pragmatic lobbyists in state legislatures promote new ways for family and others to find a “good death” for the sufferer.

Why the new, more lenient attitudes? Do they well up from long-suppressed reservoirs of compassion, or do they come from an overall depreciation of the value of life? If a person is no more than a time-bound animal with no responsibility to Deity and no hope beyond the grave, why should human life be viewed as “sacred”?

The Christian view of physical life is both higher and lower than the view of the secularist. It is higher because man is created in the image of God, indwelt by God, belongs to God, and will exist forever; the secularist views man as an animal facing extinction. On the other hand, to the Christian, physical life is temporary and not the ultimate value; it is the supreme value of the nonbeliever since it is all he has.

Thus, in the paradox, to the believer life and death are simultaneously more significant and less significant than to the unbeliever. The true believer does not cling to life because he cannot lose it and because it does not belong to him anyway. In fact, by losing it, as Christ taught us, by treating it as expendable, we find it in its full, true meaning. On the other hand, because life is a gift of God, reflects his own likeness in some mysterious way, and belongs ultimately to him, we hold it in sacred trust as one of the highest values. One’s own life is not higher in value than truth, honor, justice, and love, for example. But certainly the life of another is a far higher value than one’s own higher comfort, ease, material prosperity, or a host of other self-oriented rights and privileges. Indeed, Scripture treats human life as so sacred that a society’s view of the value of human life is a sure test of its moral integrity and social durability.[69]

So how is it with you? Struggling with your health? Ready for a better home? Perhaps shame from the past marks your insides in damaging ways. Perhaps you or someone you love had an abortion. What pain is faced in any of these! Life is a gift of God, perhaps the following principles will help as you consider this difficult issue of the value of life:

  • God’s love for people extends to their bodies, which he made. An aspect of God’s desire for all to be saved (1 Peter 3:9) is God’s desire that all be well physically.
  • God’s purpose in Christ is to end all sickness and suffering. He will do this through the bodily resurrection of believers and the restoration of creation.
  • Sickness and suffering are a result of the Fall, the effects of which will be felt by all until Christ’s return. It is both a judgment upon sin (1 Corinthians 11:30) and a prod to deal with eternal matters before death.
  • We are all dying. Divine intervention alone can rescue human beings from death’s consequences, not human ingenuity.
  • As Christ ministered to those who suffered because of sickness through understanding and direct intervention, so should the followers of Christ. (Matthew 25:31-46).
  • It is always right to care for the sick and suffering with empathy and grace. Sickness and suffering will not always be overcome.
  • Though some are specifically gifted and called into a vocational medical ministry, all believers are responsible before God to care for sick (physically and mentally) believers and unbelievers alike.

Advances in medical science (as in all other branches of science), far from being unwarranted meddling in the affairs of God, can actually be to the glory of God. God calls us who bear his image to participate with him in creativity. Christians should always pray for the sick, but never merely pray for the sick, but also provide care and support. These are essential. As you consider these issues, where can you step in and relieve suffering? Perhaps the chronically ill? Or those in chronic pain? The unplanned pregnancy? The hopeless individual? Perhaps you are that person facing daily pain or a crisis for which there seems no answer. There is care and support. Somewhere. Can you find it?

[69] IBE (2014), 394-395, 383-384.

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