How Much Do You Value Life?
LATE one summer evening in New York an elderly Christian couple were walking home from a Bible study. Suddenly three young men approached, and one of them accosted the husband. Not suspecting anything, he paused to give a listening ear. The man pointed a large knife at him and said: “Give me your money and you won’t get hurt!” The elderly man offered to give him the contents of his wallet, but the young man wanted the wallet also. Then the robber shouted to the wife, who had stepped out on the street when she saw what was happening: “Your money too!” Raising her hands, she said: “Sorry! I don’t have any money. Do you want our Bibles?” In passing it might be added that two days later the cards from the man’s wallet came back in the mail.
How foolish it would have been for the Christian to have resisted or argued with an armed robber! Yet, we repeatedly hear of people who will argue or resist the efforts of an armed robber to get their money, as though any amount of money was worth risking one’s life. It is especially sad when a person does not appreciate that he is actually taking this chance. For instance, the New York Times, December 24, 1977, told of “A Grocer and His Dream Killed by Robbers in Brooklyn.” Around midnight this man was caring for his grocery store in a high-crime section of Brooklyn when two men came into the store, shot him dead and then robbed him. The Times quoted his wife as saying: “I told him not to stay open so late. . . . He said, ‘No, we need the money.’ Twice before he was held up. Once they put the [gun] against his head and pulled the trigger. But the gun did not fire.”
Just to make a few more dollars this man was willing to risk his life by keeping the store open so late at night. It was not as if he needed those few extra dollars, for the report told that within three months after he had bought the store he had been able to pay off his indebtedness. So, by his being willing to take that risk, had he not really failed to show appreciation for the value of life?
Others, because of money, have gotten into an argument that proved to be fatal. For example, the New York Daily News, November 11, 1977, told of a man’s being stabbed to death at one of the busiest sections of Manhattan. The police attributed the murder to a money dispute. But the more disturbing aspect of the crime was that some 150 persons stood by, watching the one man stab the other to death, as if it were a TV show. The police actually had to draw their revolvers to get through the crowd to the scene of the crime. While some cheered them, others shouted: “Mind your own business!” Such a mentality calls to mind the days of the Roman coliseum when gladiators killed one another for the amusement of the populace. What little regard for life there is on the part of those who find pleasure in watching one man stab another to death!
Of course, when unexpectedly accosted by an armed robber, a person is usually unprepared and, in a moment of fear, may panic and argue or resist. A person might easily say or do something that he will afterward regret, if he lives to regret it. Since such things may happen, it is wise to be resolved in advance to keep calm and cooperate, being glad to get away with one’s life.
Sadly, today there are ever so many others who are also making the mistake of not sufficiently valuing their lives. Often businessmen, because of being driven by greedy ambition, suffer heart attacks, which time and again prove fatal. Thus, we read of men in their 40’s or 50’s dying when they could have been living into their 70’s or 80’s. They apparently are so concerned about getting rich, climbing to the top of the prestige ladder, or with gaining power, influence or a name, that they are willing to risk their health and even their life to realize their ambition.
Surely Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave wise counsel when he said: “Will a person gain anything if he wins the whole world but loses his life? Of course not! There is nothing he can give to regain his life.” (Matt. 16:26, Today’s English Version) Yes, of what benefit are money, real estate, jewels or any other material things when a person is dead?
The apostle Paul counsels to the same effect: “Those who are determined to be rich fall into temptation and a snare and many senseless and hurtful desires, which plunge men into destruction and ruin.” Rather than money, ‘godly devotion along with contentment is a means of great gain.’ In fact, such “godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.”—1 Tim. 6:6, 9; 4:8.
Just as this present life is to be valued more highly than any material gain, so everlasting life is to be valued, not only more than anything of a material nature, but even more than this present life. It takes faith to accept what God’s Word says about everlasting life. Because of this faith Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are willing to risk death rather than to compromise their religious principles, even as recent history has amply demonstrated. Thereby they are acting in line with Christ’s counsel: “Do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; but rather be in fear of him that can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”—Matt. 10:28.
The psalmist had a similar thought in mind when he said that he valued Jehovah God’s loyal love more than life itself. That is why he wrote: “Because your loving-kindness is better than life, my own lips will commend you.” His friendship with God meant more to him than anything else, thereby implying that in order to keep God’s loyal favor he would be willing to give up life itself.—Ps. 63:3.
Truly wise is he who appreciates that this present life is more to be valued than any material things. But still wiser is he who appreciates that of even greater value is the everlasting life that God holds out to those who continue in his favor.