The Value in Potential


Luke 22:24 Then a dispute also arose among them about who should be considered the greatest.

It’s the last supper they’ll have with Jesus and an argument breaks out about who’s the greatest. But it’s not how the conversation started. Just before this, Jesus had fueled a small internal investigation when He revealed that one of them at dinner that night would betray Him.  Verse 22 then reads “So they began to argue among themselves which of them it could be who was going to do this thing.”

How did the conversation devolve so quickly from an investigation of wrong-doing to a debate over greatness? At one moment the question is, “Who is doing wrong?” and the next it’s “Who has greater value?”

This shift of focus from criminality to greatness reveals a common human tendency: many believe human value is dependent on human action, that what we do determines worth, that the extent to which we do right or do wrong determines the extent of a person’s value.

But is value based upon what we’ve done or upon potential?

The fallacy that value is dependent upon past action is so prevalent that the poor, the convict, the sexual deviant, the addict, the aborting mother all often act out of society’s projected value, that which they esteem to be true. Many of us believe our life-value changes like credit card debt. Every lie, every theft, every immoral action is like the swipe of the card. More and more debt adds up and then the bill comes in with a big bold title on the front of it: Hopeless. “My value is so low I’ll never amount to anything. What should I do?” Swipe the card some more, right? It doesn’t matter anyway. The hope of ever being valued is lost.

But value isn’t dependent on human doing. Rather, it’s a function of potential.

Consider an acre of land in the small poor town of Galena, Missouri. Maybe I could sell it to you for a thousand dollars.  But what if I took that same piece of land with all its grass and dirt and moved it to the corner of 20th and Rangeline in Joplin? I might be able to sell it for a million dollars. How could the same piece of land be valued a 1000 times greater simply because I moved it?


I suppose if there’s potential for a person to get out of their moral debt, they’d be of more value. What if they had the potential to break even and begin to gain, acting virtuously in their community? Might be of even more value. What if the potential for that individual was to become a great moral leader in our nation like another Billy Graham? Even more value. What if the potential existed for a person to be righteous just like Jesus, to actually become the righteousness of God?

Therein lies the point. It is that potential that exists in every person every day – Value that’s off the chart.  It’s a hard pill to swallow that the guy eating his last meal on death row is of no less value than Billy Graham at his last meal.  Yet, their potential is the same.

May God help us to realize we are not valued by our past but by our potential to be filled with the completeness of Christ. And then let’s act like it.

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