When first faced with this question we undoubtedly acknowledge that the charity worker is worth more than the footballer. This is because charity workers give more time, skills and qualities to help those who are less fortunate. But, surely this isn’t answering ‘who is worth’ more but answering ‘who does more’?
If we are answering this question, then yes the answer would be the charity worker. But by saying this we diminish the worth of the footballer as an individual. We are placing worth on actions and not the individual entity.
If we were to give actions worth we also diminish the act of celebrities who do give to charity. They may not devote their whole lives to helping the poor but they do help where possible. Here we risk arguing that those who earn more are worth less because of how big their pay checks are. This is like saying my teachers are worth more than me because they earn more. This isn’t answering who is worth more, it’s just saying who spends more time doing something or who has a better quality of life.
Surely the worth of a person shouldn’t be determined on their materialistic possessions or time spent helping others? Although helping those in need is a thing that should be applauded it does not mean you are worth more. The worth of a person can never be fully defined because there will never be one person more worthy than another because we are all equal.
If we strip this scenario down to two school children, both of whom have the same quality of life then we get a very different response. People would automatically say that they are both worth the same as they are both human beings and both entitled to experiences. It’s like saying who would you rescue from a burning building. Who is more worthy of being saved? The answer is both of them because we are all entitled to the preservation of life.
None of us are worth more than the other because we are all the same. We all live and die, the only difference between us all is how we live our lives and surely this shouldn’t define our worth. Aquinas said that God instilled in all humans inclinations on how to behave and these actions are what lead us to perfection, if this is true then surely each inclination will be different for each person as we should achieve good. If we are all trying to achieve good then we are all worth something because just like the charity worker we are all searching for our own way to reach goodness and avoid evil.
Therefore, the worth of a human cannot be defined because we are not materialistic items in which an antique is worth more than a piece of trash. We are living creatures, beings which can never be put on a scale of worth because there is nothing in this world that would make me worth more than you.
I was asked this question in Theology a couple of weeks ago, this is my answer. I thought I’d get your opinions.