Explore The Bible Study: Values

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How much is a human life actually worth? If someone asked you this question, how would you respond? The Explore the Bible Study: Values, will focus on helping you answer this question.

Broken humanity is constantly trying to define the worth of human beings. Going through the COVID pandemic has certainly made this more obvious and revealed mankind’s inability to place a value on human life outside of a moral compass. The way we value other humans is challenged on every front with regard to healthcare, the unborn, the mental and physically challenged, the aged, the environment, and even the value of a human economically speaking. According to a 2020 New York Times article, statistician and health economist Howard Steven Friedman states that many excellent economists are working continually to determine the price tag of a human life.

The value we place on something or someone, shapes our priorities and our behaviors. The Bible teaches that God values all human life; therefore, we should as well. But when we look to other sources outside of Scripture to determine the value of a human life, without any kind of moral compass, our view and value of other human beings spirals downward.

We will be looking at three sets of passages that provide insight into how we can avoid devaluing other human beings.

Ezekiel 16:20-21 - When we forget God’s blessings and grace, we will begin to devalue human beings.

Ezekiel 16 describes God’s grace to an unfaithful Jerusalem. Ezekiel 16:1-5 tells us that God had set His love on His people from the beginning, and verses 6-14 remind us that He established a covenant with them and generously provided for them. However, God’s people didn’t value God’s blessings. Instead, they turned to false idols (Ezekiel 16:15-19). This led them to violate the human rights of others, particularly their children, as described in verses 20-21.

Notice the Lord asked His people: wasn’t your prostitution enough? They themselves had engaged in illicit sexual activity as worship rites. All those things were bad enough, but then they offered their own children as sacrifices. 

The phrase bore to me communicates ownership and stewardship. God’s blessings on Israel included children. The children were entrusted to the Israelites by God and were to be nurtured and raised to love Him and live for Him. Not only were these children entrusted to parents, but they were entrusted to the community of God’s people; yet they allowed the children to be sacrificed. God’s people should have loved and treasured the children God gave them, but they didn’t. 

Their own selfish desires replaced the value they placed on human life, leading them to sacrifice their children to images as food. Pagan worship often involved leaving food and drink in front of an idol as a present for the god. However, God’s people were taking their own children and “feeding” them to the gods through human sacrifice. The expression you passed them through the fire alludes to human sacrifice. The parents dedicated themselves and their children to the images of the gods they served by ending their children’s lives while the entire community of God’s people stood by and allowed this to take place.

What are some of God’s blessings that we tend to take for granted? In what ways might adults “sacrifice” children in order to “feed their idols”? What are some examples that demonstrate the devaluing of human beings today such as the unborn, those with special needs, or older adults? How does this devaluing parallel the attitudes and actions of those described by Ezekiel?

Ezekiel 23:36-39 - When we devalue human life, callousness becomes the norm.

Ezekiel compared Samaria to a woman named Oholah and Jerusalem to a woman named Oholibah. God said, in Ezekiel 23:1-4, that both women belonged to Him. But Oholah acted unfaithfully toward the Lord and placed her faith in the Assyrians instead (verses 5-10). Tragically, the Assyrians brought destruction on Samaria and the nation of Israel. Oholibah saw all this, yet acted even more wickedly than her sister (verses 11-21). Therefore, God said He would humble Jerusalem and Judah and bring the nations in which she had trusted against her (verses 22-35). Because of this, God told Ezekiel to declare to Oholah and Oholibah their sins. In verses 36-39 Ezekiel describes the callousness of God’s people toward other human beings, resulting in their judgment.

  • Their callous hearts led them to commit adultery openly, blatantly, and willingly – vs. 37. 
  • Their callous hearts led them to shed the blood of the helpless – vs. 37. 
  • Not only did their callous hearts lead them to commit adultery, but they committed adultery with their idols - vs. 37. Physical adultery occurred within marriage relationships, but spiritual adultery occurred as the people forsook the Lord to worship Baal and other gods of the peoples of the land.
  • Again, in verse 37, Ezekiel stated that their callous hearts led them to sacrifice their children for their idols. This callousness was so heinous to God that God describes it in verse 39 as a slaughter – slaughtered their children.  The burned flesh of their children became food for the idols they served, and God hated it. 
  • Their callous hearts were evident in their worship. Verse 38 states that they defiled God’s sanctuary and His Sabbaths. The people thought they became holy if they merely entered the temple area; instead, their unclean lives defiled the temple (see Jeremiah 7:3-4; Haggai 2:11-14).
  • Finally, and perhaps the most disturbing the fact described in verse 39 is that, after committing these horrific and unimaginable sins, they callously entered God’s sanctuary thus profaning it. 

They callously attended worship without ever considering the sin in their hearts and the blood on their hands.

What sins today are more acceptable than they were with past generations? In what ways has life been devalued because of our increasing callousness toward sin? How can we avoid becoming so calloused to sin?

Psalm 139:13-16 - King David understood that valuing humans as God does is the key.

Psalm 139:1-6 states that the Lord knew David through and through, and understood intimately everything about him. The thought of such truths staggered David’s imagination. He affirmed that God’s presence extended throughout the universe (139:7-12), and God was present with him. This led David to acknowledge that the Lord had first claim on his life, for He had created him.

Modern science has uncovered many more details regarding the gestation period of human beings that only affirm what God revealed to David. At conception, the foundations of a child’s physical characteristics, intelligence, and personality are established. After only twenty-one days, the baby’s heart beats regularly, and the foundation of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system already are established. After thirty-five days, fingers can be discerned on the baby’s hands. At forty days, brain waves appear. At three months, hair begins to grow on the baby’s head. At five months the baby weighs about a pound, is about twelve inches long, and responds to loud, startling noises. He or she only needs nourishment, warmth, and a secure place to grow. (Source: "A Baby's First Months." National Right to Life)

God saw David’s life and purpose from beginning to end before David was born. A thousand years later, the apostle Paul would affirm that David served God’s purpose in his own generation (Acts 13:36). Likewise, God has a plan for each one of us. Tragically, as a society has grown callous toward the value of human beings, especially the unborn, abortion has interrupted this process and ends a helpless, yet purposeful life God has begun.

How much is a human life actually worth?

This question was posed at the beginning of this post. Based on these passages, how would you answer this question?

Has God revealed areas in which you have ignored God’s blessings and selfishly turned toward fulfilling your own desires at the cost of others or your family?

Are there areas in which you realize you have grown callous to sins that you once thought were unacceptable to embrace? What do you need to do to embrace God’s values once again?

Do you struggle with embracing the fact that God made everyone and has given them a purpose? Do you struggle with realizing this is true for yourself as well? Talk with someone about your struggle.

Do you struggle with balancing all society teaches regarding personal rights versus the rights of the unborn? If so, dig deeper into God’s Word, and ask Him to help you embrace the value He places on all human beings including the value He places on your own life.

A final question every Christian should ask of oneself if they value human life as God does:

Does our passion for sharing and showing the good news of Jesus reflect what we truly believe about the value of human life?

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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