IN A thought-provoking article entitled "It's My Life, Isn't It?" in the October, 1968, Reader's Digest, Author Evan Hill proposed that one's life isn't entirely one's own.
He related how, as a college professor, he asked one of his students why he took the risk of smoking. The young man felt that it wasn't anyone else's business whether he ruined his health by smoking. He reasoned that it was his lungs, his health, his life, and that he should be free to do as he wished as long as he didn't harm anyone else. He felt that this philosophy covered all areas of his life. If he wanted to speed down the road at one hundred miles an hour he should be allowed to do so if the road were empty and he had no passengers.
The professor couldn't agree with that viewpoint. "It's such a bleak and lonely view of man," he told the student. "It's as if you felt you had no value."
In his article, Professor Hill went on to say that each man's life is intertwined with the lives of others, and that his life is affected and molded to some degree by those he meets, even as he helps shape their lives.
Although a man may consider his body his own, he does not have the right to abuse it, the professor continued, and then referred to Scripture to substantiate his belief: " 'Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?' says the New Testament. 'You are not your own' (I Cor. 6:19, R.S.V.)."
He told of a man he knew who was warned by his friends that his heavy drinking was endangering his health. The man said he was harming no one but himself and asked his friends to mind their own business. Ten years later, married, and having difficulty holding his job, he was discovering the impossibility of obtaining insurance because he had cirrhosis of the liver. "During his carefree, unmarried, drinking years, he was steadily damaging a girl he was not to meet for at least five years; he was harming children yet unborn," Professor Hill pointed out.
Since our lives are all interrelated, we have an interest in one another and should do our utmost to help one another really understand the value of life. Evan Hill's article demonstrates the fact that health evangelists need to present clearly the value of life to those they are instructing. Here is a basic philosophy that can make a real difference in whether or not a person responds to our efforts at health-behavior change. How can this best be done? I'd like to suggest the following development of ideas as a work able approach for such a presentation.
At Creation, God introduced the breath of life into the man He had formed from the dust of the ground and made him a living soul. In the human life there are two counterparts: (1) the body, and (2) the breath of life. BOTH ARE GIFTS OF GOD.
When life was first given to Adam and Eve they were perfect--made in the likeness and image of God, and theirs was the possibility of living a perfect life.
The first we hear of the end of human life death---was when God was instructing his newly created children in the art of living.
"But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die [dying thou shalt die]" (Gen. 2:17).
We all know the story of what happened. They disobeyed God, and in the act of their first sin Eve and Adam had to evaluate their lives. Actually, they did not understand fully what life was worth until they lost it and began to die.
The struggle between life and death has been going on ever since. It begins at birth and ends at the grave.
The first actual death recorded is that of Abel, son of Adam, killed by his brother Cain. As the blood of Abel drained from his body, the breath of God the breath of life departed, leaving Abel a dead soul.
Modern science has tried in vain to make a dead soul into a living soul, but only God possesses the breath of life. Dr. Alexis Carrel, a great scientist, was able to do extraordinary things with life. He kept alive a piece of chicken heart for thirty-eight years. This piece of tissue this bundle of cells--was suspended in a solution, and as long as it was kept nourished and the wastes removed, it continued to live and grow.
Most of us have seen the human body after life has departed. A few of us have seen at birth the human body before the breath of life is given. A note of satisfaction is always expressed when a newborn baby takes its first breath--as well as a sigh of relief that the uncertain moment has passed and the baby has breathed. In this moment God again has placed in human nostrils the breath of life.
Similarly, at the end of life there is a tense moment of uncertainty, and the body, which has begun to die, slowly or suddenly lets the breath of life depart.
At birth little thought is given to the value of life except by those in attendance; unless, of course, tragedy occurs; then much thought is given to it by those who are bereaved.
The end of life is characterized by different attitudes on the part of the individuals concerned. As a physician I have seen some face this crisis with confidence because they have let God rule their lives and they are at peace with Him. They have no desire to prolong life beyond His will. But in every case I have seen where death approaches and the individual is not at peace, I have found that the person would give all in his power to put off taking that last breath for even another five minutes. Often such a death is accompanied by considerable panic and fear.
On the other hand, one mother in Israel whom I knew, who was at peace with God, looked forward to her sleep until Jesus would come to waken her. At the age of 86, a short time before her death, she thought of what lay ahead and wrote two poems "Thoughts of Home" and "Rest." For her there were no terrors.
One morning in answer to an emergency police call I arrived on the scene of a disaster at about 2:45 to attempt by both human and prayerful means to prolong the lives of those who had so narrowly es caped death, yet had marks of the threat to their lives on them.
A ship, the Noronic, in Toronto harbor had caught fire with 1,300 people on board. Many died in the flames and smoke. Others were badly burned. Some suffered broken bones when they jumped from the ship onto the pier.
Here was strikingly portrayed for me the panic that comes with the threat to human life--panic to those in danger, to onlookers, and to rescuers alike.
Certainly in such a situation we can do nothing to help the destinies of those who succumb, but we can inwardly pray that the hearts of those who are touched and bereaved by disaster may be humbled to draw closer to the Master whose coming draws nearer and nearer with each tragedy by land and by sea.
At such times we are led to contemplate the value of human life: (1) To God, (2) to Christ, (3) to the devil, (4) to others, and (5) to ourselves.
1. What value does God place on human life?
He gave His only begotten Son to save man from his own willful choice. He gave His Son just as willingly as He gave the breath of life in the beginning. "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye" (Eze. 18:32).
However, even though God values all life, which He has created, when a person or a people choose to turn away from God that value is negated by the choice they have made, and consequently they must be destroyed.
2. What value does Christ place on human life?
He was willing to take the form of human life to save man, and He says that if only one life is saved for eternity His sacrifice will have been worth while. He also says that He will empty heaven of its angels, if necessary, to save a life. His great interest in human life was expressed often.
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).
"He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).
When Paul tells us in I Corinthians 6:19, 20 that "ye are not your own," he explains, "for ye are bought with a price." Christ paid that price, gladly yielding up His life for us. "He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His." --The Desire of Ages, p. 25.
Yes, Christ knew the value of human life.
3. What value does the devil place upon human life?
First of all, he places a low value on human life, because he offers temptations to sin and draws man down to the depths of degradation.
Also, he has no use whatsoever for the life that is righteous, because it does not serve his purpose.
The unrighteous life, although of little value in the eyes of Satan, is the one he desires, because that individual is useful to him. He says of human life and its value, "All that a man hath will he give for his life" (Job 2:4).
4. Consider how some of the Bible characters valued human life.
Cain placed a low value on life, both his own and his brother's. Abel's life to Cain was worth less than his own selfish spirit; yet, when the Lord placed a punishment on him which threatened his life, he said it was more than he could bear and asked God for some consideration.
Noah placed a high value on human life. He obeyed God and finally saved eight lives. He tried to save more, but the world would not listen.
Joseph's brothers placed a very low value on his life. First they left him to starve in a pit and then sold him as a slave into Egypt. But they valued their own lives quite highly when they thought they were starving and food was scarce. They were willing to go to any lengths to save their own lives.
Moses didn't place much value on the life of the Egyptian that he killed, but a great deal on the lives of his brethren, the children of Israel. He even asked God that his own name be blotted out of the book of life if it would save the brethren.
Paul placed a low value on the life of Stephen by consenting unto his death; but being converted, he placed a low value on his own life when it came to suffering persecution for the cause of God.
5. What value do we today place upon human life? On our own lives, and on the lives of others?
Do we place a high value on our lives if we defile the temple of God by poor health habits, by consuming our time in selfish pursuits? Do we place a high value on the lives of others if we keep to ourselves the gospel of salvation?
Are we evaluating life correctly if we enjoy luxuries at the expense of refusing to share with the less fortunate?
When our life is yielded up or snatched from us our work will be done, not only in our own lives and the lives of our families but in the lives of our neighbors, as well!
Then Christ may say to us, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40).
Otherwise, He will have to say, "Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me" (verse 45).
What value do you place on human life?