Amount in the bank? Number of properties they own? Shares in their portfolio? Value of their insurance policies? Ask your accountant and you’ll get an indication of the answer as it applies to you.
The Torah is concerned with donating to the sanctuary the valuation placed upon the person and their family. This valuation ranged from five to fifty shekels a person depending on whether they were male or female, old or young. The criterion was social usefulness, putting a figure on one’s value to the community.
All very interesting, but there is another approach to the question suggested by a passage in Shakespeare: “What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In action how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”
In this sense a person’s value is far too high to be estimated merely in material terms.
This dichotomy between man’s worth in monetary and spiritual terms often came to my mind when I had the sad duty of speaking at a funeral.
Should I say that a person was a nobody because he hardly had a cent in the bank? Or that he was a gem of a human being and his death made the world a little darker?
You already know what I would have said. Hopefully we are all precious in the eyes of God regardless of what the bank manager thinks.