What Are You Worth?

Recently a friend on Facebook posted the image below.

 Jon Stewart’s comment reveals a secular world view that is quite disturbing. He observed that the “government’s investment in her had really paid off.” The government’s investment in J. K. Rowling? Is charity toward people in need really an investment? Does the government give to the poor with an expectation of a return on the investment? Is a citizen’s human worth established by that citizen’s value to the government as a “return on investment?”

This statement contrasts sharply with Christian teaching about human beings. The Bible reveals that human beings are loved and valued by God, because they are human. Christ died for all human beings, despite the fact that humans routinely do not give God a fitting “return” for his “investment” in them. In God’s eyes, human beings have value whether they provide a “return” or not. God’s admonitions to be kind, generous and helpful to human beings in need are based on a high regard for each person’s humanity, not for that person’s potential “return on investment.”

The gospels make it plain that God’s love for human beings, expressed in Christ’s death and resurrection, grows out of the value he places on humans even before he creates them. The gospels further reveal that government is not the agency chosen by God to help human beings who suffer hunger, poverty and disease. The agent of God’s kingdom on earth is the church. When Jesus talked about an assault on the gates of hell to set free the people enslaved by sin (which shows itself dramatically in hunger, poverty and disease), he said that the gates of hell would not prevail against God’s church. Jesus did not see the government as God’s tool for alleviating human degradation and suffering.

The secular world view sees human beings very differently. In the secular world view, for example, a human being can actually have no value. A human being may even be a detriment. An unborn baby, for example, has only the value that the mother “chooses” to bestow. The mother may see the baby as an impediment to her career, to her social standing, or even to her economic comfort. If so, the baby has negative value and must be removed. The outgrowth of that judgment classifies abortion as a “preventive health service” and thereby a baby is proclaimed not to be a baby but an inconvenient parasite.

In the secular world view, an elderly woman with erratic heartbeats is unable to produce any “return” for the “investment” of giving her a pacemaker. Her life, therefore, has no value. A presidential candidate with a secular world view feels comfortable declaring that the state could not afford to invest its limited resources in her life. She should be satisfied to take pain pills until such time as she died and ceased to burden society. The panels established in the Affordable Care Act to distribute “scarce resources” will need some standard for determining who gets the resources. Will that decision hinge on the ability of the recipient to make that investment “pay off?”

Secular thinking allows human beings to judge other human beings as valuable or worthless, and the standard of measurement is the standard the human judge wants to apply.

Mother Teresa’s life was a statement of a very different world view. She cared for people who had no way of giving her a return on her investment. She loved people and valued them before she did anything for them. She loved them because they were human beings created by God. The fact that God created them gave them infinite value. They didn’t need to “pay off” in order to deserve her care and her love.

After my grandmother died, there was a great deal of work to be done in her house to get ready for the influx of family. My grandfather sat silent in his favorite chair in the living room as we bustled about. At one point, my mother pointed to me, struggling to fluff grandmother’s featherbed, and said to my grandfather, “When this grandchild was little, climbing trees and chasing chickens, did you ever think she would be coming back to help you this way?” It seemed like a silly statement to me. At a time like this we all worked and grieved together. I turned away from the conversation, shamed that she had called attention to me. Obviously my grandfather was sitting there thinking of all the grandkids and probably remembering how grandmother had doted on each one. He looked up and said, “They all help, even when they don’t come back.” My grandfather assigned value to his grandchildren because they existed, not because they “paid off.”

Christian thinking asserts that human beings have value because of the value God imputes at creation. The standards for the value of human beings come from God, not as the result of evolving thinking.

My grandfather valued people because they were people, not because they gave him a return on his investment in them. Secular philosophy, on the other hand, sees human beings as an evolutionary experiment that survived. Statist governments build on that view. Unborn babies and elderly patients may not deserve to survive. To a statist government, recipients of services from the community need to “pay off” a debt to society as certainly as any prisoner does.

The comments about Rowling include yet another secular construct – that people pay taxes in order to “give back” to the government. Government is the servant of the people, not the other way round. When citizens give the government money, the best way to view it is like giving someone the task of buying your groceries. The amount of money given should be limited to the actual cost of the groceries on the list. If some is left over, it should be returned to the giver. Only the groceries on the list should be purchased. The government should not make up a list and then put a gun to the heads of the citizens and demand they pay for what the government chooses to do.

Furthermore, government services are funded by the money citizens have already handed over. The services are rendered in response to the directives of the citizens for the use of their money, not as the government god investing in the citizens in the hope they will prove their worth later. Citizens thrive when government is small and when its powers are limited to work which protects the freedom and prosperity of the citizens. When government assumes the right to assign value to the citizens and to expect that “investment” in the citizens will produce a “return,” the power structure is upside down. Jesus directed his followers to give to Caesar only what belonged to him, and that statement defined a limited role for government in people’s lives. It pointedly rejected any notion that a human being’s value is defined by the government. People would do well to remember that when a citizen pays high taxes, the consequence is that the government, not the citizen, becomes richer and more powerful.

J. K. Rowling is a wonderful success story. Her success is due to her God-given talent for the craft and the business of writing. She is not a success because a socialist state invested in her and it “paid off.” She deserved social services because she was human. J. K. Rowling deserves respect and admiration because God created her and because she used her God-given talents with skill. The government did not create her value, and the government does not deserve anything special for doing the work assigned to it by the citizens. The glory for J. K. Rowling’s life belongs to God, not to the state.