There is always an interesting mix of people on my bus ride into the city. As a bit of a people-watcher, I find myself considering each individual as they pay the fare and find a seat. There's the older businessman with his straightened tie and weighty briefcase. There's the frazzled young mum with five different bags, a toddler, a baby, and what should be a folding pram but is a bit temperamental in the folding department.
There's the teetering senior citizen, the guy who smells a bit funny, the chatty middle-aged woman, and the university student. Finally, there's the gaggle of high school students which always bother me a bit because, at 9:30 in the morning, they seem to be heading away from the school they attend.
One morning, I was idly gazing at the older businessman type when this thought popped into my head. I wonder how much money he earns? Was he rolling in cash or was he morosely resigned to not retiring until age 75? Did he have sound investments, or was an enormous mortgage hanging round his neck like an albatross? My mind expanded to everyone on that bus. What if all of us, me included, had a series of numerals levitating over our heads that told the world how much money we earned.
How much are we worth?
It sounds ludicrous to label people like that, as if we could reduce their importance in the world to how high the number on their bank statement is. But don't we even have a phrase that suggests it? "How much is he worth?" is a question to determine an entrepreneur's success in life.
"Hey!" I hear you protest, "People are way more than just their financial situation." I agree. We, as humans, probably place more value on social abilities. Instinctively, we seek out the interesting guy at the party, or the girl with a crowd around her, or the class clown who makes us laugh.
We also see worth in those who contribute positively to society. Depending on what you care about, these might be contributions to science, the arts, or humanitarianism. If we're honest, all of us are pretty good at categorising people according to less important criteria as well: what they wear, how they speak, even their Facebook page.
Everyone we meet gets filtered through our value system and put in the "worthy" or "unworthy" basket. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where we mentally put the smelly man on the bus, the cranky old lady, the teenage mum, the unborn child, the refugee.
Let's go back to that bus-ride. Instead of our net worth in the bubble over everyone's head, or their highest level of education, or how much tax each person has paid, imagine just for a moment that that bubble tells the world how much we are worth to God. Let's face it; having created all of us, he probably should have the final say on what each of us is worth.
What would God's rating system look like? Is it based on church attendance, random acts of kindness, or our tolerance of everyone and everything? Here is the good news: it is not based on anything we have or haven't achieved. Jesus declares in John chapter 12, verse 47, "I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." He isn't interested in judgement and categories. He is very interested in love and salvation.
When declaring Himself, God says, "He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing." (Deuteronomy chapter 10, verse 18). As unbelievable as it may seem, God loves, He cherishes each individual whom He has created. That includes the social outcasts, the ones the rest of us label as unworthy.
Perhaps you are a people-watcher like me. I challenge you next time you are on the bus or jogging or in a café or wherever, to imagine those labels above people's heads, but this time, insert God's assessment of their worth: priceless.
Lucinda is married to Simon, loves playing the cello and the violin, and has a longing to be out on the international mission field.
Lucinda Glover's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/lucinda-glover.html