I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
One who listens to the talk of the street and the shops, might easily get the impression that the value of man is a subject of general interest. "How much is he worth?" is a question often heard. What answers do you hear? He is worth five thousand dollars; ten thousand; a million; ten millions. And of one and another it is said with a mixture of pity and contempt, "He is not worth anything!" Before the war men and women were actually bought and sold for money. How much is he or she worth, was then in some quarters a question simply commercial; a question to which a perfectly literal answer could be given. May it not be well to go a little deeper than the common usage goes into the meaning of this phrase, and ask, with all seriousness, not concerning this man or that man, but concerning man, any man, every man, "How much is he worth?"
I. MAN IS WORTH MORE THAN HIS INSTITUTIONS. Many persons have supposed that the chief end of man was to support certain institutions. We get many a hint of this error in our study of the people whose history is contained in the Bible. They thought that their ceremonial law was vastly more sacred than the men who worshipped by means of it. If their ritual obstructed human growth, crippled virtue, or killed charity, no matter; these must stand back and let the ritual be exalted. And when Christ told them that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath — that men were of more account than all this ritual machinery, they were astonished and scandalised; they called Him a blasphemer. This is no singular phenomenon. History is full of the outworking of this tendency. All over the world, all along the ages, men have been made the slaves of systems. When Christ came, His teachings were so entirely out of harmony with this notion that the people were fairly bewildered by them. What has been said of religious systems is equally true of political systems. There is now and always has been a prevalent notion that people were made for governments, and not governments for people; that it is more important that certain dynasties should reign, or that certain political institutions should be kept intact, or that certain parties should remain in power, or that certain policies should be adopted, than that men should be free and wise and good and prosperous. It is not true that human institutions are of no value; they are often of great value. But they are not ends; they are instruments. It follows that those systems are best which best assist the development of manhood.
II. MAN IS WORTH MORE THAN HIS COSTLIEST POSSESSIONS. This is another of those truths, often on our lips, but not more than half believed. Evidence of this is visible in the respect paid to wealth, even when it is joined to one who is but a caricature of manhood; even when it is the spoil that has been won by the debasement of manhood. How plain are the proofs before our faces every day that the multitudes do not believe a man to be more precious than gold! It is not the rich alone whose judgment in this matter goes astray; the poor fall into the same error. They say that money does not make the man, say it angrily and bitterly, not seldom; but their conduct often shows that they think, after all, that money does make the man. Their envy of the rich convicts them. Are there not in our own conduct, sometimes, clear illustrations of this fact? Do we not often find ourselves preferring gold to manhood; labouring more diligently to enlarge our possessions than to improve ourselves? It is not true that property is of no consequence; man's belongings are good just in proportion as they assist in the development of his character.
III. IT IS BECAUSE OF HIS KINSHIP TO GOD THAT MAN IS OF SUCH ILLUSTRIOUS WORTH. And nothing seems more certain than that these powers may, by disuse or misuse, be impaired and finally lost. And so cut off by his own act from the source of all light and love, he is deserted by all generous impulses, by all holy aspirations, and is left to grovel in the mire of selfishness and carnality. "How much was he worth when he died? "some man may ask. What if the seer must answer: "He was the heir of immortality, but he sold his birthright for a song."
(W. Gladden, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.