We encourage one another to make a difference. It is a worthy goal–to make the world better, to leave something positive behind. We esteem the people who make their mark. Not to think ourselves shallow, we also value the quiet achievers–those behind the scenes who make a difference but don’t ask for glory. We call them more noble.
We value the loud and the silent achievers for what they’ve done. Showy or shy, our worth is based on our accomplishments.
Our elderly parents tell us that they would be ashamed to be on the receiving end of care:”I don’t want to be a burden.”
Have you seen “The Drop Box?” This is a documentary about South Korean Pastor Lee Jong-rak, who takes in abandoned babies. He has constructed a box, a pass-through, on the side of his ministry home in which people may leave infants which they cannot care for, no questions asked and anonymously. Without the box, many of these babies would be abandoned in the dark on the streets of Seoul, and many of those would be found dead by next morning. This happens.
The opening of the outside of the box trips an alarm, and Pastor Lee rises in the night to run to receive the babies. Most he has passed on to social services, but 18 have become part of his family. Almost all of those are disabled. His own biological son is a severely disabled young adult.
This is what Pastor Lee has to say about his disabled children:
“There are children who rely on the help of others to survive their entire lives. Many people think it is better for them to go to heaven as quickly as possible, because life on earth is too difficult for them. But God sent them to the Earth with disabilities. They’re not the unnecessary ones in the world. God sent them to Earth with a purpose.
Disabled children teach many people, change many people,and help people reflect upon themselves, which is why they are the educators of society. Even these deficient, feeble children, these really weak children, live with smiles on their faces.”
The Drop Box: Rescuing Hundreds of Babies in South Korea
But here is an equation which we find difficult to resolve.
In our achievement-oriented society, aren’t we all valued by our ability, our accomplishment, our visibility? If accomplishment equals value, then the handicapped, who cannot accomplish, are of little value.
That sounds bad. We don’t approve of our own equation. It does not reflect well on us. So we add to that evaluation this item: the disabled are relieved of accountability to achieve. They can’t accomplish so we won’t expect them to.
Does our equation make sense yet? What can we add to make it work?
Since achievement equals value, maybe the disabled have some sort of consolation purpose. We think things like: perhaps they’re here to make us appreciate that we don’t have to endure lives like theirs. They inspire us to be grateful for our well-being. Maybe their purpose is to smile in spite of their horrible and pointless existences. That must take some special grace that I don’t have (and don’t want.) They have value without achievement.
Maybe this kind of thinking soothes our secret horror at the thought of living like they do but it may also be a way of soothing our consciences while we find some way to value the value-less.
But that doesn’t work either. Our generosity is toward ourselves; it does nothing for the recipients of our pity. I am afraid that our concern is with easing our own feelings rather than with helping the person who needs our help.
But back to the equation.
If the disabled are of value even though they cannot accomplish, how can I be of value because I achieve? If my abled-value standard is true, how can disabled people be of value?
If the able aren’t valued by the disabled’s virtues, and if the disabled cannot be valued by our achievements…
We are using two scales. Two equations are necessary: one for the able, another for the disabled. If so, don’t we assume that there are two scales for two different classes of human beings?
That’s rarely a good idea. Eugenicists usually start here.
In God’s economy, there must be only one set of balances. There must be an objective value measure to which all human persons have access. What if we are all valued in the same way? Must we not all ultimately be weighed on the same scale?
The crippled child cannot be weighed on the same scale as the highly accomplished and physically unchallenged adult, and come out equal.
It may be better to weigh the able on the same scale as the disabled. What if— in God’s measure, which is after all the true reality—we are valued the way they are? What if the able are judged by the disabled standard?
What do we have in common?
If we have the same purpose they do, then no one’s true value is accounted because of his accomplishments. Then value must be intrinsic and unearned. It must mean that all our purposes must be attainable without the aid of our accomplishments. That we all have value, regardless of our abilities.
What if we are valuable even though we have nothing to give? What if our value has nothing whatever to do with what we can do?
What if we are greatest when we have nothing to give?
We are all put on Earth needy, dependent, and disabled. Do babies have lesser value? Some people remain dependent. What can our common purpose be?
What if everyone‘s purpose is to be the object of the care of other people? What if we are at our greatest when we are receiving? What if you– no matter how capable you are— are here so that others may care for you?
Let’s be honest. In practice, most of us would find that humiliating. But what if your whole purpose is to become humble?
People were bringing the little children to him to place His hands on them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. When Jesus saw this, He was indignant and told them, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them! For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”…
We struggle against being dependent; dependence makes us insignificant. Accepting help is humbling. We want to be the giver, the person who makes a difference.
Almighty God is glorified when one person cares selflessly for another person, and when we spend ourselves on another who is needy.
Turn that picture around. We overlook this perspective: God is glorified and honored when we accept care with humility and gratefulness, and receive love which we cannot pay back in any tangible manner
Pride is the root of all sin and God values humility. Can it be that what God desires most for us is to be in relationship, and to engender love from others? Are we here to inspire grace in others?
Let us remember the most fundamental equation in God’s Word. The most significant thing we can ever do is to accept God’s salvation when we have nothing to give in return, no way to earn it and no way to ever pay it back. The greatest thing we can ever do is to submit to rescue while acknowledging our utter helplessness, and to thank, love and acknowledge our Rescuer. This is our eternal condition.
Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him…
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A universe where Pastor Lee’s adult son– unable to see, talk, or walk, nor even to comprehend– and I, physically and mentally able to accomplish much–are on truly equal ground, of fully equal yet inestimable value, makes sense. The equation works.