Image of a man sitting in prison cell.

“Are Human’s Worth Saving?” – Failing to Distinguish Human Value and Merit.

I copied the above image from a Facebook post someone put up in a reformed group. People responded to it with various answers. Most said “No” “Nope” “Not at all…”

Here is my response:

The original post seems to conflate two different issues: worth vs merit.
(a) Is there any good reason to save humans? Value/Worth(b) Do we DESERVE saving? Merit/Desert
Human worth versus human merit are two very different things. Furthermore it is just like humanity to reverse these, and treat humans have having no worth, and yet too much merit.

God’s salvation is unmerited favor. We don’t deserve salvation. However, this does not imply that humanity has no intrinsic worth and thus not worth saving. Worth should, therefore, be distinguished from merit. I realize that there is a deep legacy in evangelical preaching to say that humans are “worthless sinners.” I think this is just to confuse two different concepts.

When God created humanity, his purpose for humanity was not to solely have something that was sinless; in other words humanity’s worth was not bound up solely in its lack of sin…. such that when humanity fell… she lost all her worth. Human worth goes beyond merely being sinless or holy. God created humanity as image bearers… to be his vice regents on earth, bear his image, represent him, worship him, enjoy him. Humans have worth because they were created in God’s image. Humans have dignity, purpose, agency, potential to worship and appreciate God, give him glory, enter into relationship with him, etc…. In other words, what is worth saving are things that God himself invested in his creation.
When we look in Genesis 9 and James 3 we see that humans still—post Fall—bear the image of God, and are to be treated as valuable/worth-ful. This is, in fact, a command from God. Humans are the one’s who risk treating each other has lacking worth.

Therefore, YES… there are reasons to save humans. NO humanity does not merit/deserve salvation by their own works. YES God’s willingness to save us—despite our lack of merit—shows his mercy.
What happens when we get these mixed up? If we don’t detach merit from worth, we wind up speaking as those created in the image of God are not worth anything until they trust Christ as savior and their sin is dealt with. I don’t know that this squares with the doctrine of Creation or theological anthropology.

Does this worth/merit distinction not rob God of sovereignty and glory? I don’t think so. This is because our worth ALSO comes originally from God. That we have worth is a result of grace. That he saves us is a result of mercy. Grace in creation and grace in new creation are all from HIM… mercy in salvation is likewise all from him.

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