The Ten – Value of Life
I want us to begin this morning by reading one of the oldest stories in the history of time. It’s a story found in Genesis 4: After he had learned how to produce food from the fields, Cain gave the Lord an offering—some of the crops he had grown from the ground. For his part of the offering, Abel gave God some tender lamb meat—the choicest cuts from the firstborn of his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, while He had no regard for Cain and what he presented. Because of this, Cain became extremely angry and his face fell. (Genesis 4:3-5 The Voice)
I would venture to guess that the emotion Cain felt that day was not a new one. He knew anger. He'd been angry at the land when his crops wouldn’t grow, angry at the weeds that invaded his garden, and angry at the heat that dried up his hard work. But this anger was different. It was directed not at something, but someone. Cain was angry with his brother, and in a strange way, the anger felt good.
Our Father who knows everything about us, invites Cain to examine this emotion, this powerful feeling, when He asked: What's wrong with you? Why do you have such an angry look on your face? If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling. But you did the wrong thing, and now sin is waiting to attack you like a lion. Sin wants to destroy you, but don't let it
This was not the first time that Cain had heard of sin. His dad and mom had told him of it, warned him about it. He knew that those weeds and the heat that he hated so much were a result of sin. He knew that sin only brought pain and destruction and now the Father was telling him that sin was crouching at the door. But the only thing that he could see was his anger.
When the Lord left, Cain got up and went to find his brother Abel. Her said, let's go for a walk and Abel led the way. As Cain followed behind him, he glared at Able and felt his anger grow. A breeze passed by and brought the odor of sheep and the anger turned to hatred. When they walked over the crest of a hill where no one could see, Cain shoved Able, knocking him to the ground. Before Abel could voice a protest, Cain picked up a large stone and the only thing he could see was his anger and his hatred. With all his might he hurled the stone down on his brother. Abel rolled in the dirt for a moment, then was still. The last thing Cain saw before he turned to walk away was his brother's blood gathering in a depression in the earth.
At least that’s the way I imagine that the first murder on planet earth happened. The sixth commandment may not be the most frequently violated of all the commands, but when we break this commandment, more is broken than the law. From the beginning, human life has been sacred. In Genesis 1:26, God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; Verse 27 adds, And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
In Genesis 9:5-6, God told Noah, I will demand blood for life. I will demand the life of any animal that kills a person, and I will demand the life of anyone who takes another person's life. “Whoever kills a human being will be killed by a human being, because God made humans in his own image.”
While God has valued life from the beginning, it seems that humans have sold it at a bargain. Besides Cain's murder of his brother Abel, Genesis records other acts of violence. In one of the earliest poems we have recorded is Genesis 4:23-24, One day, Lamech announced to his wives: Lamech: Adah and Zillah, listen to me! Wives of Lamech, I need to tell you something! I killed a man who struck me. He was a young man who wounded me first. Here’s how I see it: if Cain is avenged seven times, then surely Lamech must be avenged seventy-seven times!
Our disregard for human life doesn’t stop in Genesis; the pages of the Bible is filled with plenty stories of murder. But murder didn’t stop with the book of Revelation. History records millions. We are a murderous people. Yet, there more to the sixth commandment than us having a way to measure how far the human race has fallen from the ideal. The sixth commandment has so much to teach us about relationships, not because you and I are guilty of taking someone’s life, even though I guess you might have considered it when you are driving through Atlanta. As with all of these words from God, there is more than first meets the ears.
Remember the ten commandments are God’s way of defining the relationship that He has called us to. So when God says, You shall not murder. What is the message or the principle that He is trying to get across to us in this commandment? I believe that there are two basic reasons this is true:
First, Human life is sacred because we are made in the image of God.
We are created in God’s image, that’s why all human life is precious and sacred. God created everything, including plants and animals. But according to Genesis 1 humans were created in a different way than everything else. In every other act of creation, God said, "Let there be," and it was so. Let there be light. Let there be plants. Let there be birds and fish. God spoke and creation occurred.
The creation of human life was different. God said, Let us make man... God didn't just speak us into existence as He did everything else; He made us. We are the closest thing in all creation to God. We are the only part of creation made in His image. In Genesis 2:7, God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being. We are not told that breathed the breath of life into any other creature, only mankind.
When God created man, He made us different than everything else in all of creation. Paul Tripp says that, Humans were hardwired for glory. And I think he is right. After all, that’s why we’re so attracted to glorious things. We love to see a great painting or hear a beautiful piece of music. We watch an athletic contest or a feat of daring with wide eyes and racing hearts. We love the sleight of hand of a great magician or the smell of a well seasoned steak, or the beauty of a sunset. We love the glory of a moment and the recognition of the people around us. We’re attracted to the glory of wealth or the beauty of the human body. We are hardwired for glory and this can be seen in how we live our lives chasing it.
Animals are created differently. Rhinos don’t celebrate the size of their horns. Deer don’t gather for a long-jump contest. My dog doesn’t envy the color of a birds feathers. Animals don’t chase after glory, because they weren’t made the way that we are. You and I are hardwired for glory because we were hardwired for God. Our drive for glory is a gift given to us that will drive us to God.
When you read that we are created in the image of God, that doesn’t mean that God has two arms. feet, or shoulders. Rather, it means we are spiritual beings and our immortal spirits will outlast our earthly bodies. We are intellectual and have the ability to think, reason, and solve problems. We are relational and have the ability to give and receive real love. We have a moral consciousness that allows us to discern right from wrong, which makes us accountable to God. And all of these things drive us to God.
Being created in God’s image means that we have the ability to become godly. You were created to take on His values, attitudes, and character. Paul writes in Ephesians 4 that we are meant to take off your former way of life, your crumpled old self … to take a fresh breath and to let God renew your attitude and spirit. Then you are ready to put on your new self, modeled after the very likeness of God: truthful, righteous, and holy. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
God's ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development. He wants you to grow up spiritually and become like Christ. You were created to love like Christ, show compassion like Christ, be giving like Christ, extend mercy like Christ. That’s why this commandment is so important, because love sees the true value in every person created in the image of God.
Secondly, Human life is valuable because of the price that was paid
I would imagine that everyone collects something. Some of us collect things on purpose, some of us collect things on accident, and some of us only collect dust. Let’s say you collect Comic Books. What’s a Comic Book worth? Well, I’m sure if you added up the material cost: paper, ink, staples, it might come to somewhere around 10 cents. But if you have an Action Comics number 1 it’s worth an estimated 3.2 million dollars. But the truth is that we have to say estimated because the value of something is determined by what someone is willing to pay. Cost does not determine worth, worth determines cost.
So what is the worth of a human life? According to John Mueller, a political scientist at Ohio State University "the value of a statistical life turns out to be around $5 million,” that’s the political value you have over the span of your life.
The Conversible Economist’s Timothy Taylor says that estimate is to low and reports that the value of a human life is an estimated retail price? $7.4 million which is how much revenue will be made from you during your life span.
Then the U.S. Office of Management and Budget says that figure is too low, and they estimate the value of a human life is closer to $9 million dollars, or that’s what the government expects to spend on you during your life.
As I was reading these studies this week my eyes gravitated to our word estimated, this is your estimated value to politicians, businesses or the government. But we can actually know how much we are worth because the price for our lives has already been paid. Paul writes in Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus said in Mark 10:45, For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. You are priceless because the one who created you and sustains you also redeemed you.
Let’s get out of the comic book discussion and get a little closer to home. Your next door neighbor, you know the guy that lets his dog run through your yard and tear up your shrubs. The one who plays loud music at all hours of the night and refuses to mow his grass. How much is he worth? He’s worth so much that Jesus Christ was willing to give His life so that he might know salvation.
How about the guy who cuts you off on the Interstate? Or the driver who just sits there when the light turns green? or the guy who takes a shopping cart filled with 100 items into the self checkout line. Guess what, they’re worth that much, too. And so is every man and woman who irritates you, who frustrates you, and even those who may ridicule and abuse you.
You see, ultimately, the sixth commandment is about more than just murder. Which is a shame because I can feel rather self-righteous because I’ve never murdered anybody. Ultimately the sixth commandment has to do with the respect I have for people and the value I place on their lives.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment. ’ But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. Matthew 5:21-23
When we get angry with someone we are devaluing them as a child made in the image of God. In that instant of anger, we’re saying that this person is not worth my time and as far as I'm concerned my life would be better if they were no longer a part of my life. And perhaps we have been at that point more often than we’d like to admit. If we’re not careful, we can live our lives motivated by anger and hatred.
And while very few of us would admit that we hate anyone, we might need to examine how we treat those created in God’s image. Because the principle of the sixth commandment is a call to respect people and care about them. That means that if we want to see the true value of human beings, we need to see them from God's perspective. Because the only way to truly cherish the lives of other people is to see each and every person the way God sees them: made in His image, and worth more than the life of His only Son.
At the root of the Sixth Commandment is God's concern for how we treat each other. We are called to love people, which means that we are to use what we have to bring glory to God in one anothers lives. When you feed the hungry, visit the widows and orphans, welcome people into your communities, you are bringing glory to God.
Any time we treat another with contempt, gossip about them, or see them as an imposition we are violating the dignity of that human being.
Any time we allow our anger to seethe and boil without resolution, we devalue not only the relationship we share with that person, but also that person's life.
Any time we dismiss someone out of prejudice, dislike or disrespect, we fall under the condemnation of the sixth commandment.
In the family of Christ, we are all called to come to the table as brothers and sisters. And because we are members of the same family, the human race, we have a responsibility to each other. In Genesis, with the memory of his brother's blood still fresh in his mind, the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper. God said to him, The blood of your brother cries out to me from the ground. The Lord replied to Cain, Yes, you are your brother's keeper. And this morning God is reminding us that we have a responsibility to be our brothers keeper as well.