The Value of a Human

creation of man

This is actually an excerpt from the book I am writing, so it’s a bit ripped out of it’s context, but I thought it would be a good scriptural follow up to the “What I Don’t Deserve” article in my new series, The Lies I’ve Been S/Told. Enjoy!

See, what some of my brethren have mixed up is what we deserve versus what we have earned.

That’s an important distinction to make, because if your value is based on what you have earned, then yes, you “deserve” punishment for your sin.

But if your value comes from somewhere else, then punishments are what we have earned, not what we deserve.

It’s a core value question instead of a superficial concern of the moment.

It asks, “What do human beings deserve, as created?” not what they have now earned through their own actions.

Certainly we have earned punishment for our sins. We can all think of a bad choice that we’ve made that has caused consequences in our lives. And throughout scripture we see that when holy comes into contact with unholy, something has to die. And so we have earned our death, punishment and the suffering attached to it.

But human beings don’t deserve it.

If human beings deserved hell then God could have just saved time and created them in hell, “Mwa-ha-ha-ha!”

But that’s not the story of this God.

This God carefully crafted a wonderful, thriving environment for his creatures to live in and then set them as co-stewards over the very creation he created. He released them into his world with the ability to think, create and cultivate his beautiful creation. And he created them in an image (reflection, likeness) of himself.[1]

It was a world of vibrant, shimmering potential; creation and creatures loved by God.

So when we think about what human beings deserve, it’s very different from where they have ended up.

Zephaniah describes God as a mighty warrior who defends his people and takes great delight in them—even rejoicing over them with singing.[2]

Think about that.

God rejoices over his people with singing.

The Psalmist upon reflecting on the awesome magnificence of God asks, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?”[3]

Then he answers his own question. Why would an all powerful God who could do anything he wanted to care for these puny little frail creatures called mankind?

Because he created them.

But not just because he created them, but because he made them as wondrous, enchanting creatures, “You have made thema little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.”[4]

I like this paraphrase:

“Yet we’ve so narrowly missed being gods,
bright with Eden’s dawn light.
You put us in charge of your handcrafted world,
repeated to us your Genesis-charge,
Made us lords of sheep and cattle,
even animals out in the wild,
Birds flying and fish swimming,
whales singing in the ocean deeps.
God, brilliant Lord,
your name echoes around the world.”[5]

This is not a low view of humanity. This is the insistence that you are a not worthless creature that deserves to suffer in despair and pain, no; it’s the insistence that human life is uniquely precious and beautiful.

It’s a very high view of humanity

And if that view of humanity is true, then it’s no wonder that God would come down to his own creation and die for them.

And Jesus’ death isn’t saving humanity from what they deserve; it’s saving us from ourselves.

He’s not providing a better future—he’s offering us the correct future.

It’s a future full of richness in life, joy and communion with the Father of all creation. And so throughout the bible is the insistence that you are worth so much more than this. You were created with the divine spark, and in this is the affirmation and celebration and all of creation. When God steps down into his creation as Jesus he came in the sarx, the flesh. He came in the flesh to save the flesh and spirit. It’s the restoration of true humanity. The restoration of creatures from their fallenness to their intended glory and honor as God’s creation—as they deserve.

[1] Genesis 1:26,2:15 [2] Zephaniah 3:17[3] Psalm 8:4[4] Psalm 8:5[5] Psalm 8:5-9, The Message.

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3 responses to “The Value of a Human

  1. Amen, Amen, Amen

  2. austin applebach

    Hello, I sort of stumbled upon your blog, and I rather enjoy it. I particularly enjoy this bit about making distinctions between what we earn and what we deserve. But I think I am a bit confused still about how you want to use this distinction as it relates mankind to God. I think in this article you use the term “deserve” in two different senses and it seems intentionally so. In one sense you say that since we have earned punishment for our sin, we “deserve” that punishment. In another sense you say that since we were created by God for a certain purpose, we “deserve” to enjoy the rights and privileges associated with that purpose.

    So the real distinction here seems to be the manner in which we come to “deserve” anything. On the one hand, we deserve punishment because of our actions, and it seems that justice is the driving force behind the connection between our actions and their consequences. On the other hand, we deserve glory because of the original design intent of our creator. This conjures up the notion of an inheritance, where I deserve something because it was the will of a higher authority to give it to me.

    The question all this raises for me theologically is whether or not we deserve God’s grace. If we do deserve it (in the second sense) then it seems this runs counter to our normal understanding of what grace is (i.e. an undeserved gift). But do we deserve to be glorified, despite what we earn only because the Creator intended for us to?

    I like this article because it has made me think and ask deeper questions. If you are including this piece in a published work, perhaps answering these questions would enrich the text. I know it has for me.

    -austin applebach

    • Hey Austin,
      Thanks for reading!
      Great thoughts. I’ve read your comment a couple of times (and not because you had any lack of clarity), so I think I have an idea how to respond. You’re right, I do use deserve in two different ways, so I’ll have to work on clarifying that. Perhaps I’ll have to come up with two distinctions of deserve. To answer your question I think I’ll have to take a stab at explaining myself a little better. Are you familiar with Plato’s allegory of the cave? (See What I was attempting to get at is that the ideal form or core metaphysical nature of “humanity” as God created it does not deserve hell. Unless all that it means to be human was lost in the fall, I believe that humans in their humanness still don’t deserve hell–in that the humanness by nature belongs in God’s good creation, not in torment, evil etc. However, this image of God (i.e. humans) have chosen a state (sin) that requires/demands separation from God (hell). This latter state of humanness DOES NOT deserve anything from God. But because of his intent for them (and their original state) he desires to restore to them to their original state and his intended purposes for them. Do they deserve it? (Your question) No. But then I don’t think they “deserve” hell either. Hence the best I could come up with to describe what they (we) have done is “earned” hell, because it’s confusing when I use deserve for both. So the best I could do was that they deserve life and life to the full, but have earned death and destruction. I feel like the english language is failing me for the distinctions I want to draw.
      So, to answer further, I think the only thing human beings can continue to “earn” is their destruction and there is no other way to save themselves from their consequences than accepting the forgiveness offered by Jesus’ atonement. I may have muddied things in my reply more than clarified. I just don’t want to casually treat the human condition. I think the Christian mindset toward humanity (due to a misunderstanding of total depravity?) is that human beings are trash and worthless. I want it to be clear that human beings–all of them–are deeply and profoundly precious to God and he created as incredible beings. And they still are. Elsewhere I have put it this way: Human aren’t pieces of crap, they’re people covered in their own crap.
      And they need rescuing. Which is undeserved, but are worthy of such a rescue mission–because they are people, not because they deserve it.
      Hope that helps, and sincerest thanks for your reading and comments. I’ll be chewing on that for awhile.

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