“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations.”* Those words from Christian thinker C.S. Lewis give some idea of the real value of human beings.
I agree with most of Lewis' words above (though I do reject the idea that dull and uninteresting persons are likely to become horrors and corruptions). The idea that people can become something we might be tempted to worship has a solid foundation in the Bible as well as additional scriptures that I accept.
What does such a statement say about the worth of a man (or woman)? If we can become something that marvelous is it not rather silly to try to measure us in terms of mere money? Indeed my own church teaches, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.”** If the Son of God did that for us what are we really worth? Indeed the difference between the world's wealthiest man and the pauper becomes insignificant in an eternal sense. Likewise why should we worry about the difference between the queen of England and the ordinary citizen? Earthly titles are insignificant compared to our eternal potential.
Now I hope non-Christian readers are not put off by my references to Christianity, I can only speak from my own beliefs. If you belong to a different religion I hope you will consider what your own religion says in this regard though of course it might be quite different from what I'm describing.
In any case, for those of us who believe in eternal life, human value must be considered in terms of that life. What is our eternal purpose? Again my religion gives a hint, “men are that they might have joy.”***
There you have it. Our purpose is joyous living and that is what makes life invaluable, both here and hereafter. Note that joy is different from fun or even from a life of ease and comfort. I've known many people who lived joyfully in spite of handicaps I would hate. To them life is precious and they live it to the full.
Those people and others who really know how to live find joy in their work, their families, Nature and every other aspect of their lives. They have made a habit of looking for what they can enjoy and by so doing they add value to their lives and to the lives of those with whom they associate.
If there is a true measure of a man (or woman) it is the joy he provides to himself and to his fellow beings. That doesn't take money; it doesn't even take good health. It takes a joyful attitude. It takes realizing who we are and what we should become. Another statement from the same lecture by Lewis helps understand this.
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
Lewis continues with some practical advice on joy,
“This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.”
What he is describing is an added value way of living, both for ourselves and others. The value we thus add will apply both to this life and to the next. If we combine Lewis' suggestions with the other aspects of true charity we will add immeasurable value to our own lives and the lives of others. Our already immeasurable worth will increase even further. We will live fuller, happier lives. And not incidentally we will concentrate on building up what is good rather than expecting government to give us what we have not earned.
(Note: True charity is far more than giving to the poor, though that is included. As described in scripture it is a deep love for God and man.)
*From C.S. Lewis' lecture entitled “The Weight of Glory.” That lecture is available on the web and it is worth reading the entire text.
Doctrine and Covenants, 18:10-11. For those unfamiliar with that book, the Doctrine and Covenants is one of the books of scripture accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons.
***Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:25