This week has seen the passing of Steve Jobs, the creative mastermind behind Apple. Tributes have been flowing in from around the world, focusing on his business acumen, his innovation, his team ethic, his value to humankind. Observers have been surprised at how many people have Facebooked, Tweeted, blogged and e-mailed, quoting Mr Jobs at length as if his very words held the key to life itself.
This very same week, another man who had inspired an outflowing of musical creativity also died. Bert Jansch, a folk guitarist whose unique style influenced the likes of Paul Simon, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young and many others, passed away. His passing was marked without fanfare, without presidential comment, without television specials interviewing anyone who knew him to glean the detailed trivia that feeds the insatiable appetite of the doting public. But which man had most worth?
Before we rush to answer,we should check our hearts. How much have we bought into the cult of celebrity, the concept of “value added” that defines a man by his productivity, his popularity or his bank balance? How much do we play by the same rules, judging each other by what we can or can’t do, or what we have or have not achieved, even within the community of followers of Jesus?
Outreaching amongst freelancers in Bangkok’s Chinatown area earlier this week, my wife met a woman, six months pregnant, who was touting for customers. She gets one customer a day if she is lucky, and picks up 400 baht, 100 of which goes to the owner of the seedy hotel where she rents the room. How much do you think she is worth? A girl we are helping is dealing with the trauma of having had three abortions, the last one at seven months. How much were the lives of her unborn children worth? And how much is she worth? Last year, 2,000 fetuses were found in a Thai temple, the victims of backstreet abortions- they were worth $16 each to the woman who took them from the illegal clinics to the temple,and were a small part of the estimated 300,000 illegal abortions carried out in a year in Thailand; but how much were they really worth? And what is the worth of the lonely, frightened girls who feel they must resort to such desperate measures? And of the “doctors” performing the abortions?
Again, before quickly answering, we need to pause and reflect.We all know the stock Sunday School answer- in God’s eyes, all people are equally precious, loved by Him, redeemed by the blood of His Son- but in our everyday lives, how do we flesh out that belief? Do we play the fame game as much as the next man? How much does our use of time, of our money, our attention reflect the value that God has placed on every sinful, broken, marred and damaged person? How much do we see the image of God despite the external packaging? And how can we break free from the pandering to the values of this twisted, broken world in which we live, that perverts worship to idolatry of the successful, the talented, the powerful, the beautiful and the rich?
And we need to answer the hardest question: When we use the standards of this world to define the worth of people, what worth are we really attributing to Jesus, the one who:-
“..grew up before God—a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field.There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried— our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins! He took the punishment, and that made us whole. Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him.” ?
May we be continually renewed in the ways we attribute value and worth to others, transformed and not conformed, equipped to live a life that truly sees people as Jesus sees them, as we gaze upon the face of Jesus in worship!