What's a Person Worth?

The value of the possession is in the intensity of its pursuit. If so, how much is a person worth?

I enjoy the show Shark Tank. The premise is that startup entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a group of billionaires to try and gain their investment. What I like about the show is that these are real companies, real people, and real money. 

At the end of the pitch, the aspiring entrepreneur names a number. What will it cost to invest in the company? This number is called a valuation. It's what they believe their company is worth.

Most of the time, the billionaire "sharks" dispute the valuation. 

Disputing Jesus' Valuation

In Luke 15, Jesus is in a dispute over his valuation of "sinners." Jesus eats with sinners, but his critics think he should separate himself from them. In response, Jesus tells three stories to explain why he invests in sinners.

In the first two stories, a shepherd searches for a lost sheep and a woman for a lost coin (Luke 15:3-10).

Note the way Jesus begins the stories. "What man of you . . .(Luke 15:4)?" He expects a positive response. If you were a shepherd who lost a sheep or a woman who lost a coin, wouldn't you search for it? 

Of course you would.

The rhetorical nature of the first two stories places more gravity on the third. 

A father has two sons. The younger son shames his father, leaves home, and wastes his inheritance. But he returns.

The son did not anticipate the father's reaction. Rather than rejecting him, the father restored his son.

But there's a shark in the story. The father has made a valuation. Despite what he has done, this is my son, not a servant. And now the older brother will dispute his father's appraisal.

'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!'

Luke 15:29-30

In short, "your son" (not my brother), isn't worth the celebration.

So you would celebrate the recovery of a lost sheep and a lost coin, but not a lost son?

Jesus uses the voice of the father to defend his valuation of lost people.

"It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found."

Luke 15:32

While a person is lost, their life is wasted. But when that person is saved, it calls for a great celebration. A lost person is worth far more than a lost sheep or a lost coin. Right?

This is why Jesus eats with sinners. They are worth far more than a meal and far more than our reputation for the association. 

If we search more diligently for lost money than we do for lost people, we are in a valuation dispute with our Savior. 

Bible Study

Read Luke 19:1-10

  • How are those who grumbled like the older brother and Jesus' critics in Luke 15? How is their valuation of Zaccheus similar to that of the younger brother or the sinners in Luke 15?
  • What are the principles to be applied from this passage?
  • How does this passage inspire us to praise Jesus?


Recall a person in your life who made a high valuation of you. How did they invest in you? What difference did it make? Now pray for God to show you someone to invest in who does not know Christ. Find that person. Invest in them. Share Christ with them. Pray for your boldness and their salvation.

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