The other day I heard one of my favorite preachers via his podcast say something odd. He said that if you don’t pass on the stories of your life to the next generation, the value of your life ends with you.
At first this sounded like great motivation to go mentor someone. Which was his hope. But then it hit me, this kind of thinking misunderstands the nature of value.
The value of any thing is not determined by the thing itself–its value comes from outside itself. Specifically a person has to give it value. Money is just paper until someone values it. Art is just images until someone likes it.
The same is true with our lives. The value of our lives doesn’t come from ourselves. Our value is given to us from an outside personal agent–God.
This is why in the book of Genesis we are explicitly told that humans beings are made in the image of God and are called very good (Gen. 1:27,31). Had we not been given a higher value by our Creator, our value would be the same as every other creation.
The entrance of sin into of the world, of course, separated us from our value-giver, and nearly ruined our sense of value. Thus apart from God we now try on our own to add value to our lives. Whether through work, kids, money, power, relationships, beauty, stuff, or accomplishments, we all try to make ourselves appear valuable. And some of us are obsessed with ensuring that the value of our life outlives us. Because there’s something inside of us that feels valueless.
But the good news of Jesus Christ is that we don’t have to work for our value anymore. Jesus came to give us our value back, not in and through ourselves, but through him.
When Jesus rose from the dead he was called the first born of the new creation (Col 1:15). That is to say at his resurrections he inaugurated a new story. When we repent of our sin, and put our trust in Jesus, we too become new creations (2 Cor 5:17). That is we have entered into the new creation story, the story which is all about Jesus.
This is extremely good news! Now our lives have value, not because of our own stories, but because they are a part of Jesus’ story. Thus, the value of our life continues, not as long as our individual stories continue, but as long as Jesus’ story continues.
What is more, once we have joined Jesus’ story our lives can’t help but be valuable. We couldn’t mess them up (that is devalue them) even if we tried. Whatever mistake we’ve made, whatever failure we’ve been through, whatever sins we have committed, the story of Jesus Christ is still bigger. The redemptive story of Jesus Christ is bigger than anything we could do (or not do) to our lives.
In Christ our lives no longer stand on their own. Each life is just one piece of the puzzle. Each life is now just one string in the beautiful tapestry. Each life is just one scene in the grand story.
Because of this our lives will have value long after we die—not because of who we are, but because of who Jesus Christ is.
The value of our lives whether now, or after we’re with the Lord, does not rest on us. That would be tragic. For even the greatest lives among us can not ensure long-term sustainable value– no matter how much they pass their stories on to the next generation. (Just ask a junior higher today who Michael Jordan is.) On our own the value of our lives will diminish until we are one day forgotten.
But in Christ even the least of us who are now overlooked and forgotten will one day shine bright like the sun. We will see how Jesus used our lives to affect and change the lives of others, bringing glory to himself through even the smallest of our actions (or even our inaction), because our story, all of it, was engulfed by his story. Our past, present, and future was and is given new meaning. It was, is, and will be, redeemed, interwoven into the newer, the better, and bigger story, of Jesus Christ.
And because of that, when we go to be with Jesus, we can be assured that for all time and eternity we will forever see the eternal value he has so graciously given to all of our lives.