Paths are means unto ends. Whether maintained or neglected, a road’s value is generally determined by its utility to get you where you’re going (scenic trails are something different, perhaps). A traditional road, the regular path, is for travel. You aren’t suppose to park on the shoulder or camp in the ditch. You take the path to its end: a place.
Places are ends in themselves. You may not stay long or want to be there at all – but you are somewhere, and that’s the point. A path is nowhere, a place is somewhere. “This is Walmart, that is First Assembly of God Church, over there is Frank’s mom’s house.” You arrive at a place and stay until it is time to take more paths to another place, but you never advance beyond places – because places are ends in themselves.
“Here for this third time I am ready to come to you, and I will not be a burden to you; for I do not seek what is yours, but you; for children are not responsible to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be expended for your souls.” (2 Corinthians 12:14-15a)
Who are the Corinthians to Paul? He is speaking of monetary burdens (as in 1 Thessalonians 2:9). In this case, bluntness and beauty coincide: “I do not seek what is yours, but you.” Would you say that the people in Corinth are a path or a place for Paul – a means or an end? An end, clearly. Paul is glad to spend and be expended for their souls. These people are valuable in the apostle’s estimation. Apparantly, he deems them worth investing in.
I have to re-learn this lesson each day. People are worth my time, not because of anything they offer, but simply because they are image bearers of God. More than this, Christ’s sheep surely are valuable. The bride of Christ is credited the merit of Christ. She is valuable according to the richness of His obedience. If His obedience was sufficient to fulfill all righteousness, how valuable must His wife be, having such righteousness imputed to her? So instead of trampling others to arrive at my ambitions, perhaps I can become ambitious for people themselves.
In the tradition of Edwards: “Resolved: to walk unto people and not through them.”