Oct 212013 11 Responses

Disability Isn’t About Supply and Demand

In our society, value is determined by scarcity or abundance. It’s supply and demand.

The more plentiful something is, the less value it has. The more scarce a desired object, the more value is created.

A byproduct of this system is abundance allows us to devalue the different. The imperfect can be thrown out when there are plenty of other options. When an item is scarce, imperfection does not change the value.

In Matthew 12, the gospel writer quotes a passage from the prophet Isaiah to describe Jesus—”A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench.”

disabilityHaving a child with Down Syndrome causes me to have a different view of this verse. (See: How Many Chromosomes Will We Have in Heaven?)

The two images used—a reed and a wick—were things found in abundance in the day of Jesus:

Reeds would quickly cover a wetland area. They were plentiful and could be used to build roofs, create papyrus, or weave a basket.

Wicks were in great supply. As the primary source of artificial light, they were everywhere.

Because they were plentiful, imperfect reeds and wicks could be tossed aside. Why settle for a broken reed when there are thousands of unbroken reeds to be found? Why take the time to cut back a smoldering wick when new wicks were all around?

Yet if a wick is scarce and we need a light, even a smoldering wick which will take some work has value. If I desperately need a few reeds to fix my roof before the next rainstorm and reeds are scarce, even the broken reeds would have value.

While I operate by a system which assigns changing values depending on something’s worth to me, the passage in Matthew shows that Jesus does not devalue people based on abundance. (See: Down Syndrome Is Not My Problem)

When it is said of Jesus that he wouldn’t break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick, it shows Jesus still assigns value even when the object seems broken. What others see as worthless, he still views as valuable.

Many view people with disabilities as different from the norm. They believe someone with a disability cannot contribute as much as someone without a disability.

And since we live with an abundance of people, society chooses to devalue the different.

If the human race was at immediate risk of extinction, if no one was getting pregnant, and a woman got pregnant with one child, even if that child had Down Syndrome, everyone would view the child as valuable.

Yet in a society where pregnancies are in abundance, any abnormality which makes the child different, also devalues the child in the eyes of many.

It might be true for many, but it is not true for Jesus. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

In His eyes, abundance does not devalue the different.

Having a mass of children does not devalue the child who may not be as fast, as cognitively developed, or who might not be able to contribute as much as we think they should.

In the eyes of Jesus, everyone has the same value, no matter their ability, skill, or imperfection.

An abundance or problems does not allow us to devalue a child who, in our eyes, might add to those problems.

An abundance of healthy children does not allow us to devalue a child with genetic defects.

An abundance of opportunities for more pregnancies does not allow us to devalue this pregnancy.

An abundance of complications in our lives does not allow us to devalue a child with complications.

In the eyes of Jesus, the different have equal value as the “normal.” It’s so because value is not determined by one’s ability to produce, but is inherently given within creation. (See: How I Told My Son His Sister Has Down Syndrome)

Humanity is not valuable because of what we can do; humanity is valuable because our Creator gave us value.

When someone is different, we might see them as less valuable, but God does not.

Abundance does not devalue the different.

 

For more, see:

Mr. President, Let’s Protect This Child Too

An Open Letter to the USA Today Editorial Board

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