More Valuable than Sheep
By Fred Zaspel
In Matthew 12:12 Jesus exclaims, “How much more valuable is a man than a sheep.” Now, on one level that is not profound at all. We all instinctively recognize that a human being is more valuable than an animal.
Looking at this passage B.B. Warfield poses the simple question, “Why?” What is it that makes a man more valuable than a sheep? Is it simply that we are more intelligent? That we have self-consciousness? Reason?
All this is part of the answer. But at bottom, Warfield answers, what makes a human being more valuable than an animal is that we all have within us an irresistible sense of dependence upon God and an unavoidable sense of obligation to him. The sheep is no less dependent or obliged — that is just the nature of the Creator-creature relationship. But the sheep is not aware of it. What makes us more valuable than the animals is our constant and unmistakable awareness of our dependence on and obligation to God.
We are dependent, and we know it. We are obliged — responsible — and we know it. And so we are unavoidably religious and moral beings. The animals are not religious. They do not gather on Sundays and pray. And they are not moral beings, teaching their children right from wrong. But intuitively we are aware of this relationship to God, and in our heart of hearts we are inescapably religious beings. It is the fool that says in his heart, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1). Honestly — intuitively — we know better. In the human consciousness, just as in the Bible, God is a given.
The Bible explains this for us when it tells us that we are created in God’s image. There is something of our Creator’s fingerprint stamped on our being and consciousness. And this is what makes us so infinitely more valuable than a sheep. And this is what makes human life so sacred.
[This blog first appeared at sola scriptura ministries international.]
Fred Zaspel holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Free University of Amsterdam. He is currently a pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He is also the author of The Continuing Relevance of Divine Law (1991); The Theology of Fulfillment (1994); Jews, Gentiles, & the Goal of Redemptive History (1996); New Covenant Theology with Tom Wells (New Covenant Media); The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2010). Fred is married to Kimberly and they have two children, Gina and Jim.