What makes any human being valuable? That question is at the heart of any person’s actual worldview. Depending on how you view the world, your answer to that question will be vastly different. If you believe that all we are is matter that has fallen together and developed by chance, where is the value in a human life? If you believe that the universe is in itself an organism, and humans are merely cells in the body, why would they be worth any more than a kitten or a rock?
But the Bible has always shown us an answer to the question of the value of life that is far clearer, far more consistent with morality, far more helpful as we look at the world. The Bible reminds us that every person in the world has value, high value, simply by being human.
Now, before even looking at a verse of Scripture, think about this question: Why is it wrong to oppress the poor? If you are an atheist, what reason do you have that it is a moral wrong to enslave or abuse people for your personal benefit? You might say that it harms society as a whole by shredding the understood social contract. You might say that it is counter-productive in the long run to us as individuals to hurt others. But what makes it wrong? What makes it more than just unhelpful, bad business strategy? What makes it wrong to abuse other human beings if you have the strength to do it and get away with it?
Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
In this little proverb, we see the Bible stand in opposition to the oppression of the poor. And The reason that the Bible shows us that it is wrong to oppress the weak and needy has nothing to do with social contracts or pragmatism. It is wrong to oppress other human beings because other human beings have been made by God. To intentionally hurt or use people is to attack the Lord God who made them.
Remember that in Genesis 1:27, we saw that God made mankind in his image. We exist to display the glory of God. WE are here on earth as little pictures of the fact that there is a God who made us. For us to attack and do harm to humans, then, is for us to attack the very image of God. For us to use and oppress other humans is for us to attempt to do harm to the image of God. When we attack people, we attack God. This is not because people are divine, but because people exist in the divine image.
The point here is not to say that all soldiers and police officers cannot use force to protect. In fact, the Bible is clear that such people have been authorized by God to use force to protect the innocent who are created in God’s image. In Genesis 9, God told Noah that murderers would receive death for attempting to destroy the image of God.
The point is that God values his image. To intentionally oppress or abuse people is wrong because people exist in the image of God. WE protect human life and move to increase human flourishing because people exist in the image of the Creator. We act to limit cruelty and atrocities because all human life has value. We strive to move people away from immorality and toward obedience to the Lord because we desire their good, their protection, and their salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ. WE value people, all people—old people, young people, rich people, poor people, white people, black people, brown people, any color of people, people with accents, people who talk like us, people who love us, people who oppose us—we value all people because all people exist in the image of God. That worldview truth gives true and consistent rationale for why we protect people, it is for the glory of God.