Where Do Values Come From?
by: Gary L. Hutchens
A great deal is said these days about values. Family values, life values, the value of life itself. What do people mean when they speak of such values? And where do these values come from?
The term value is used to speak of the worth of something. Most people think of value in terms of monetary worth. But that’s just one, rather narrow frame of reference. Monetary worth cannot be assigned to principles or concepts such as those noted above. Intrinsic worth is the focus in regards to those kinds of values. The concept itself, whatever is being discussed, is inherently valuable just because of what it is.
The value of life cannot be measured in terms of dollars and cents. To put a dollar figure on the value of life degrades the meaning of life to being no more significant than a piece of furniture. Especially when considering the uniqueness of human life, in that God created humanity with a soul, its value is limitless.
What determines value in such matters? Where do values come from? Generally, values are subjective. What is valuable to one person may be considered worthless to someone else. This reality is the basis for continual, often heated, philosophical debate.
For example, a person raised in a close, loving, supportive home will likely have a different perspective on family values than will a person raised in a highly dysfunctional family setting. Similarly, what a person considers important in life can be markedly different from one individual to the next. For some, it is accumulating wealth, acquiring position, success. For others, it is being able to live a simple, unencumbered life surrounded by loving family and friends.
The very idea of violently taking a life is abhorrent to many people. But the conscience of others is so seared that killing bothers them virtually not at all. For some people, abortion is unthinkable. To others, it is little more than just another medical procedure to cure an ill.
The value system employed is key. A person will assign value based on his personal value system. So, using a good value system is crucial. It needs to be a value system that is, itself, inherently good. It also needs to be consistent and reliable. Where does one look to find such a value system? To the social conscience of society? That changes from generation to generation, virtually with the wind. What is considered good and proper by one generation is frequently rejected by a future generation. What was once considered repulsive later becomes accepted. Personal feelings are equally fickle and unreliable.
The only value system that makes any real sense is one that is based on belief in, and dedication to, God. That’s not religious mumbo-jumbo. That’s basic, common sense. “God is good” (Ps. 73:1), and He’s good all of the time. Without God, there is no consistent basis for goodness. If a person cannot get a handle on the concept of basic goodness, his values will be all over the place. By studying God’s word we can learn a value system that is always good, that will give us stable, consistent, meaningful direction…
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Gary L. Hutchens