Are All Men Created Equal?
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
How much is a human life really worth? Is the life of a youth worth more than that of an elderly person? Is the life of a peasant equal in value, say, to that of a youth who has a college degree and has his life before him? That question was debated in China, when an old peasant fell into a night-soil pit, and a twenty-four-year-old medical student, Zhang Hua, seeing his distress, waded into the pit to save the old man.
Noxious gases overcame the young medical student and he lost his life. Quickly, Communist party officials proclaimed young Zhang Hua a national hero, a model of selflessness for Chinese youths. He was eulogized by China’s top leaders in a campaign that was meant to silence the “crisis of confidence” among Chinese youth who question the values of the government.
The issue touched off an unexpected and emotional debate following a Shanghai newspaper story. Within three days, more than 1600 letters were received from young people who said they viewed the young medical student as a fool, not a hero. What is even more noteworthy is the fact that 1600 letters came from within a country where it has not been healthy to write letters of dissent.
“What is praiseworthy,” wrote a medical student, “is only his noble spirit, but not his actions. The loss of life at such an early age and with such a promising future was not justified by what a 69 year-old peasant might have contributed to society in his last few years.” Another wrote, “It is certainly not worthwhile to barter gold for the same weight in stone.” The odds were heavily against the young man who gave his life trying to save another.
My observation is that the young student’s philosophy that the peasant’s life was not worth that of a promising young medical student, much better represents the philosophy of Marxist commitment to the state than does the attitude of the party officials who tried to make a hero out of him. What would you say? Is one life worth more than another?
Where do we get the notion that one life is equal in value to another? That all lives are of importance? That all men are created equal under God, and that every person–regardless of his age, race, color, or religion–has the right to live and die a natural death? That concept comes not from the writings of Marx or Engel but from the Bible. The Bible teaches that all men are equal in God’s sight and that the value of human life is a cherished foundation of the Judeo-Christian way of life.
Jesus Christ said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The value of life is further heightened by the death of Jesus Christ, who gave His life that all people everywhere might have salvation. Do you want to see what God thinks of the value of life? Then look at the lonely figure of His Son on the cross and hear God say, “I cared enough about your life to let My Son die for you.” The attitude of the Chinese youth who said, “Young Hua was really a fool to try to save the life of the old man,” was not simply a reflection of the party teaching but a picture of our old sinful nature that cries out, “Me first! You do not count!”
The value of life demands that we care about others, that we recognize the importance of every human life. Also, that we recognize that life is a God-given right which none has the right in his own hands to take from another.
Resource reading: James 1:1-27