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How Much Does a Life Cost?

July 21, 2012

The “potency of life” is simply an economic one: “In social and political sciences, it is the marginal cost of death prevention in a certain class of circumstances.” In other words, to determine how much a human being’s life is worth, you simply need the right mathematical equation.

Consider insurance companies.

They allow you to determine how much your own life is worth and that of your spouse. It’s called a “Life Insurance Policy”.  Then they have you pay them money every month for your guesstimate to “insure” that, in the unfortunate event you die, that you life is actually worth the value you placed on it. I have decide my own life is worth “X” amount of dollars and I pay a small fee every month to “insure” that when the time comes, other people will benefit from the value I placed on my own life.  Pretty neat racket, eh?!  And also entirely premised on narcissism.

Or consider adoption

Most families and agencies put the price of a international adoption right around $30,000, give or take.  Domestic adoption can sometimes cost less, but not necessarily. Here, the cost (roughly a year’s salary for most Americans) must dramatically dissuade families from adopting.  If the costs were lower would more people adopt?



Or a soldier.

Earlier this year, it was suggested that a soldier in Afghanistan for one year cost the federal government between $850,000 to $1.4 million. A typical sergeant makes roughly $30,000 of that per year (hey, that’s about the exact cost of an adoption…!).

The price of a life during the post-Exodus wanderings?

A measly half-shekel.Image

God required that a census be taken (Ex. 38:25-31) and each man paid a “ransom” with a half-shekel. No more. No less.

“The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives.” (Ex. 30:15).

That’s the cost of a life to God and everybody’s life was worth the same.


“What about the guy who had lots of sheep and goats and cattle and silver and gold and fine clothes and luxurious tents? Surely he was asked to contribute more!”

Nope. Half-shekel.

Yeah, we don’t like the whole “Everyone’s equal” idea when it knocks us down to a lower level.  Our “Everyone’s equal” speech usually equates to others being dragged up to our “prestigious” level rather than us being knocked down to their murky level.  And we hate being equal with others on lower levels than we picture ourselves to be at.  We think, “I’m sure I would have at least thrown in a whole shekel!”

But the Israelites – both rich and poor – were all in the same predicament: wandering in the desert and completely reliant on God.  And since they were all in the same situation, they all had to pay the same price: a mere half-shekel.

And then I read this today: “[God] estimates every sinner at the same value, and consequently requires the same price to be paid for every one, for the beggar as well as for the king, for the least as well as for the greatest sinner. Such…is the nature of what sinners need to be redeemed from (Gal. 3:13), and such the nature of the soul, that no mere nominal price…or any price, however great, a sinner might be capable of giving, can suffice to satisfy the law’s demands or those of the holy and righteous lawgiver.” – William Brown.

The Israelite man paid his ransom and became, in a sense, his own property.  But sinner cannot ever remotely come close to paying their own debt for they have nothing with which to contribute to their own cause.  They’re bankrupt in every sense.

But then this.

“You were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (I Peter 1:18, 19)

Sinners cannot pay their own way. But Jesus can and did.  Having paid the ransom for sinners, they become sons and daughters of the Sacrifice, the Great High Priest, “for he has fully paid for all my sins.”

So what does a life cost? Economically speaking, somewhere between $30k and $1.4 million depending on how you run the numbers.  Biblically speaking, a life – and a sinful one at that – costs a mere drop of Jesus’ blood.  It costs nothing for us and cost everything for Him.

How much does a life cost?

A single drop of priceless, invaluable, inestimable




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