What determines value?

I've been meditating lately on the concept of value. What makes something valuable? What constitutes worth? Several things came to mind. I'll share the journey with you.

Desirability is a core component of something being viewed as valuable. If there is a strong level of desire for something, that object or event becomes valuable in the eyes of the beholder. Lack of desire toward it, diminishes the perceived value of the considered object or event.
This brings the question then, is value determined only by the beholder or is there an inherent value in the object or event apart from our perception of it?

Does this mean if our perception toward something changes and we no longer view it as desirable, that object has lost its value? Or, is there value apart from our perception resident within an object or event? I'll get to this in a bit.

Accessibility contributes to the perceived worth of something. Is it rare? Is it hard to come by? Is it a once in a lifetime opportunity? Rarity places desire upon something and therefore increases our sense of value toward it.

Age, process and condition determine value. Age - (often accompanied by rarity) such as with antiques. Process - as in the fermentation of wine. Condition - Does is function as intended? Does it hold its beauty or is it blemished or damaged?

Beauty - this one brings with it, its own discussion (which will be for another blog). However, beauty, that perfect symmetry of quality or appearance incites us to label it worthy. Beauty is one of the attributes which evokes desire.

Sentiment - We've all heard the phrase "sentimental value". This often means that an object, event, or memory's value transcends its personal condition or functionality. An object becomes a symbol of something of greater value than its physical framework. The worth of it is no longer in itself, but is found in its ability to conjure a connection to something else held dear. This was my father's violin, for instance. It doesn't play, but it retains a sense of worth, if only to those whom that father's life held value. So in this sense, sentimental value is much smaller in its scope. One man's trash is another man's treasure. Our perception makes the difference.

Utilitarian - Often if something is useful as a means to achieve an end, we place value on it. A shovel may only be worth $20 bucks, but the hole it can dig which leads to planting the apple tree, which then leads to feeding a family gives the shovel worth well beyond its monetary equivalent.

Need and survival - At the very base of applying worth to something, we have to include survival and need. If we deem life valuable, then things like food, shelter and water become important. Even at such a base level, our perception and our world view affects and influences that which we attribute value to. If we do not perceive life as a gift to be cherished, it will be reflected in our overall quality of living (so much as in our control to determine). Generally speaking, when something is "needed" (whether perceived or real), it takes on a quality of intense value.

Potential - If something is viewed as having potential, meaning it will bring about a future reward, it too holds a state of value, though in its current condition it may not be able to achieve the desired results.


Okay. So the above are not meant to be an exhaustive list, they are just some of the ones I've meditated on. Yet all of these value determining things still bring the question; Is there anything that carries an inherent value in and of itself, apart from the perception or determination of another?

To say that desirability or any of the things I listed gives something its worth leads to a deeper question. What effect do these things have on a person which causes them to deem something as desirable and therefore valuable? To answer my own question at least superficially, I would say they all create a sense of nourishment, pleasure, or life enrichment. Any of the above produce some measure strengthening, sustaining or encouraging effect in the beholder.
In short, value relates back to its contribution to personal or communal well being. At least in dealing with a healthy human conscience. Of course there can be wicked distortions that bring a twisted sense of value to something, but I am not here dealing with that.

This is not to say that someone cannot recognize worth without having an immediate personal impact by it. Hopefully, we all learn from a young age to respect that which belongs to another. The ability to respect something which may not be valuable to us but is to another, is a sign of maturity and healthy social skills.

Even so, the question remains. Is value subjective to the beholder or is there inherent value in something? What about in a case where someone values something we find to be less than beneficial or even harmful to themselves or others? Is one person's determination right or better than another? Where is the standard in such a subjective sea of fluctuating perception and opinion.

There is a scripture in the book of Judges 21:25 that says, "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes." Without adhering to a higher system of judgment and value, complete chaos and anarchy reigned. Everyone did what they themselves perceived as right or worthy. The result was destructive.

For those like myself, the standard of determining value and worth belongs to God. Of course, I make my own judgments, but God's perspective is where my own subjectivity ends. From this posture of humility and reverence, the chaos of life takes shape into a symmetrical beauty and grace which shines light on all hidden things. My personal perceptions are given opportunity to transcend human limitation and take upon them the nature and likeness of God's thoughts. As humans, our own systems of value can at best only be partial or broken and hold to a subjective, limited perception. However, God alone who sees from beginning to end can determine an absolute value of something. When we agree with God's perceptions, our own lives take on a supernatural quality. That is the ultimate goal of life; to agree and to resonate with God.

Luke 16:15 tells us "What is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God."
Jesus said this to the Pharisees regarding their love of money. We place value on things which serve our purposes or give us pleasure, but to agree with God is to value that which serves His purposes and gives Him pleasure. It gives us a whole new system of determining value. It leads us past the realm of the temporal into that which is eternal.

To address my own question, yes, some things do have inherent value apart from our perception. These are the things which transcend the temporary self serving needs of life and remain from generation to generation unto eternity. These are the things which remain. Faith, Hope and Love, but the Greatest of these is Love. Lord I long to hold to Your systems of value and worth, transcending my own perceptions and looking through the lens of Your perspective onto every situation in life.