Timothy S. Morton
A materialistic society tries to place a value on everything. It claims, "Everything has its price." Those of the world are constantly assessing the value of their stocks, bonds, bank CDs, 401k, insurance policies, pension plans, welfare checks, food stamps, minimum wage, etc., etc. In this present Laodician age this value fixation has also dominated the thinking of some who claim to be Christians. They feel they must place some kind of material value on the human life or human soul.
Some of the most popular catch phrases of the modern age are "I am worth it," "You are worth it," "Am I not worth it" or similar variations. Such vanities are used by vain people in an attempt to get something, sell something, or just "feel good about myself." They see themselves as being of great value. How foriegn such self-exaltation is to the spirit of the Scriptures. What does the Bible say concerning these things? What value does it actually place on the individual human soul?
The essence of a soul is an elusive topic. Most will agree that the soul is the essence of a man, but what actually is the soul, and how is it different from the spirit? In the Old Testament soul is often used as a synonym for the whole person or the individual. Gen 12:13 is an example,
Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.
Here Abraham was speaking of his life in general. There are dozens of similar uses in the OT. Another use of soul is of the essence or substance of a man.
For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. (Psa 16:10)
This instance (which also is a prophetic reference to Christ's soul) speaks of the conscienceless of man; the essence of him, whether in the body or not, that exists and makes him distinct from another man. The New Testament for the most part emphasizes this aspect. The soul as one third of the trichotomy of man: body, soul, and spirit (Mat 10:28, 1Th 5:23).
In comparison with the spirit, contrary to the contentions of some, there is a distinction. Heb 4:12 makes it clear,
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The word of God can divide the soul and spirit thus they must be two separate concepts, though they are not always easy to distinguish. Probably the easiest way is to realize that the soul is what a person is while the spirit is something a person has. When God created Adam he gave his body breath (spirit) and then man became a living soul (Gen. 2:7). It seems the soul is a product of the spirit.
Of course, there is a vast difference between the spirit present a lost man and the Holy Spirit dwelling in a saved man. Actually, the "spirit of man" is a dead spirit. It is the part of Adam that died the day he ate of the tree. His soul in a literal sense could not die and his body did not die until over 900 years later. That is the reason all of Adam's descendants are "dead in trespasses and sins" the spirit within them is dead because it has had no fellowship with God since the day Adam ate from the forbidden tree. The "spirit of man" appears to be a spirit common to all men which God created when He made Adam. It appears to also be called the "spirit of the world" (1Cor 2:12). There is no indication that the lost man has an individual spirit. All lost humanity share the same spirit.
In a similar vein all born again believers share the same Holy Spirit, but this is where the similarities end. The Holy Spirit is a righteous, living, regenerative spirit that will grant the believer a glorious body (Phil. 3:21) and carry him into the presence of His Savior while the spirit of man is sinful and dead and will only carry the lost to a burning hell.
When an individual contemplates the value of himself to society, the world, or even to God, the sky is the limit. The inherent pride of the human heart knows no limits when it come to esteeming itself. This exalted value of one's self is not limited to the lost. It is probably more manifested by believers. Don't think so? I'll prove it to you.
Probably the most quoted verse dealing with the value of an individual is Mark 8:36-37 (see also Matt. 16:26),
For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
This is a simple, straight forward verse showing the vanity of gaining the world or anything in it at the expense of one's life or soul. However, in the mind of many preachers and "expositors" it says more than that. They insist it places a value on the life or soul as greater than the whole world! Granted, a person's soul should be more valuable to him than the whole world, but they go farther. They claim that the actual intrinsic value of a human soul is greater than that of the whole world, even to God! Only a proud, egotistical heart would even consider such a concept. The lengths man will go to find a way to exalt himself is utterly amazing.
Here are some part of a "sermon outline" quickly gleaned from the Internet that shows this haughty attitude,
It would do well for many to wake up and realize the value of the soul which God has given them. Every soul is extremely valuable because of:
CHRIST'S ESTIMATE OF IT
A. Jesus knew the price to be paid.
B. He did not suffer to save "junk"
C. The price was not too high for Him to pay.
D. Jesus’ words - "The Soul is the most value thing in the world."
The author then goes on to quote Mark 8:36-37. Another says flatly, "The Cost [to redeem a] Soul proves its worth." Really? This is the gist of their thinking. Since God was willing to pay such a high price to redeem each individual soul of mankind, then the soul must be worth the price paid. This is the height of conceit. Christ did not redeem us because we are worth the price. More on this, shortly.
Lets look at Mark 8:36-37 for a minute. Notice Christ said, "what shall it profit a man." He did not say, "Since the human soul is more valuable than all the world to my Father in heaven, it would be a poor business transaction and unprofitable for one to exchange it for anything less." The subject of the passage is "a man" and what the profit is for HIM. It says nothing about the actual value of a soul or the price it is worth.
What if Christ had said, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain a new car (or a nice house, or a better job, or a long vacation, or a case of beer, or a shot of dope, or only a simple meal like Esau, Gen).... Would that mean that a soul is only as valuable as a new car or a simple meal? See the messes a proud heart gets itself into? Instead of listing worldly things individually, Christ simply lumped the world and all the worldly things together into the phrase "the whole world." Remember the world is evil (Gal. 1:4) believers are not to love it or the things in it (1 John 2:15-16). Christ was saying that since each individual has only one soul and their actual essence is their soul, they should not exchange anything in the world for their soul's eternal security and salvation. He DID NOT say, "The soul is more valuable to God than the whole world" or "The soul is of infinite value," blah, blah, blah.
Some reading this may object and say, "The Bible says 'God so loved the world that he gave....'" Yea, I know where you are going. First, how can you quote John 3:16 where God loved (past tense) the world in view of your belief a soul is worth more than the whole world? Are you claiming your one soul is more valuable than all the other souls in the world? I don't think even your pride will carry you that far, but your bloated ego has gotten you into even more of a mess because you didn't think this through. The context of John 3:16 is a world full of individual souls and the opportunity of each individual soul believing on Christ ("whosoever"). Your claim a single soul is worth more than the world is a flat contradiction because the world is made up of souls just like yours! How can any one soul in it be worth more than all the rest combined?
Another argument, mentioned above, held by the conceited egomaniacs is the claim, "If the soul was not worth the price then why did God give the ultimate price for it—His only begotten Son?" They reason like a marketing executive on Madison Avenue; only imagining a transaction possible if two things of perceived equal value are being exchanged. "I must be worth the price," they gloat. Not so fast you swelled head. Let me remind you and all your kin (if you ever knew it to start with) that you and a million worlds full of people just like you are NOT worth one millionth of the price that was paid to redeem you from your meager existence. You have succumbed to the mentality of the "god of this world."
Pay attention, dear Reader, and learn a great and humbling lesson. God through the Lord Jesus Christ did not come to earth as a man, suffer temptation, suffer physical torture, suffer great mental anguish, suffer an unjust judgment, shed His precious blood, get nailed to a cross, get forsaken by His Father, and die a miserable death because YOU are worth it. He did all of this for us poor hell-bound, destitute sinners because of HIS NATURE TO SHOW HIS MERCY, GRACE, and LOVE!!! God saw we had a great need and HIS NATURE IT APPEARS COMPELLED HIM TO GIVE HIMSELF AND REDEEM MANKIND!!! This is a profound truth that is almost lost in a egotistical society: God did not love the world because the world was worth loving; He loved it because of HIS NATURE TO LOVE. Dear Reader, it is ALL OF GOD and NOTHING of YOU!!!
What does that tell you about your God and Savior, Christian? He didn't take a look at the evil, wicked world and say, "Those people are of immense value. Each soul is worth more than all the world. I calculate that the blood of my Son is of a similar value so I will go down and purchase them for a possession." This kind of thinking is pure, humanistic dribble that essentially DESTROYS the CONCEPTS of GOD'S MERCY, GRACE, LOVE and the GIFT of Salvation. The people who hold this view are completely blinded to the fact that their position effectively nullifies several key attributes of God.
Where is mercy, grace, and love when one is buying something that is worth the price? Were you showing these traits to the salesman when you bought your last vehicle? Or did you buy it because you thought you were getting a pretty good deal? How is salvation a gift if it is merely a mutual transaction for something of value? That nullifies the entire concept of giving.
To paraphrase what God said in John 3:16 and other places, "I love the souls in the world so much and pity their miserable plight so extensively that by my MERCY and GRACE and to show them the extent of MY LOVE, I will send my only begotten Son down to redeem them from their sins" (Tit 3:4; Psa 62:12, Psa 86:5, Psa 86:15, Psa 130:7; Mic 7:18; Luk 1:50, Luk 1:54, Luk 1:72, 78; Eph 1:6-7; Heb 4:16; 1Pe 1:3, 1Pe 2:10 Rom 5:8; 2Co 5:19-21; Tit 3:4; 1Jo 4:9, 1Jo 4:10, 19). This is the God of the Bible. The former is the god of egocentric, conceited, blinded Pharisees.
Here the question arises, "man must have some value, at what level is it?" The Bible does not say specifically, but it does say, much to the chagrin of the some animal rights activists and New-Age knot heads, that a human being is much more valuable than animals. Christ said concerning God caring for His creation (see also Mat 6:26, Luk 12:24; 1Co 9:9-10),
Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father...Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Mat 10:29-31)
He also said concerning men caring for animals on the sabbath day,
And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days. (Mat 12:11-12)
Furthermore, it is obvious that man is greater than animals in that animals were given by God to man for food,
Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. (Gen 9:3 AV)
Needless to say, any animal that killed a man for food was to be slain (Gen. 9:5) because man is a higher creation. Over all, any human is of more value than a large group of animals ("many sparrows").
On the flip side, the Bible says man is lower than the heavenly creatures,
Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: (Heb 2:7)
When Adam was created he was designed as a creature one step below the angels. He was given glory and honor in the Garden of Eden and had dominion over the whole earth. Then he fell. He fell from a state of innocence to sin. Thus he is even lower below the angels.
Some suggest that man is still at a high enough level for God to place enough value on him to provide salvation. However, that won't work.
And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. (Jud 1:6)
For reasons not revealed there is no indication the Lord is going to provide a salvation for these angels, even though they are a higher creation than man. It possibly may be because they had more revelation than man. Nevertheless, it can be said that by His abundant MERCY, matchless GRACE, and undying LOVE God choose to provide a salvation to mankind, not because man is worth it, but because of God's benevolent nature.
Reason with me a moment, Dear Reader. Do you really think you are that special or unique among God's creation? Are you such a special creature that not even God can duplicate you? Likely you will say "No," but those who claim they are worth the price act like the answer is "Yes." The truth is, in the grand scheme of things there is not much to you and not really anything special about you. Consider this passage where Christ deals with some conceited people of his day.
And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. (Mat 3:9 AV)
Some Jews thought they were special because they were Jews. (In some ways the Jews were special as a nation, but individually they were still sinners.) However, Christ shot this reasoning down with this ego-busting statement. "God can make Jews out of stone (and even less) so don't think you are something special."
How hard was it for God to create the universe? How hard was it for Him to speak man into existence and make Him a living soul? There was no effort at all. All he had to do was speak and it was there. How hard would it be for Him to make another you or a billion more of you? Then how can you be special or unique if a trillion more of you could be made in an instant? Is one grain of sand on the seashore more special than any other? Or one flea among millions on all the dogs of the world (1 Sam 24:14, 26:20!)?
Your author has realized for many years there is nothing special about him, and the knowledge of it makes his life easier. He knows figuratively speaking he is no better than a mere animal (Matt. 15:25-26). He knows his place. He realizes in himself he is an utterly worthless, despicable, dog with no inherent value of his own to give him ANY redeeming qualities. However, because of the immense Mercy, Grace, and Love of the God of Heaven redemption was provided to this poor sinner and upon receiving Jesus Christ he became a child of God; born of God by the Holy Spirit. He realizes that every blessing he has even had in life came not because he was "worth it," but came because of the GRACE of his creator. In Christ he has everything; in himself he has nothing but death, the grave, sorrow, and hell.
Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. (2Co 9:15)
Amen! and Amen!