Skip to content

Blog / How to Live the Bible — Looking for Dignity

How to Live the Bible — Looking for Dignity


This is the two-hundred-fourteenth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.

A small group of children see me taking photos of their school building and scamper to jump in front of the camera. Seven of them altogether, four boys and three girls. They giggle, hop about, squeeze in, arms around shoulders, to get in the frame. Each flashes a broad smile, one boy with a large gap where two front teeth used to be. Their school uniforms include navy blue shorts, blue gingham shirts, and white and blue striped ties. And how they laugh when I show them the digital images of them on the back of the camera.

Mel Lawrenz explains the importance of human dignity in this article.

These are a few fortunate children who are being helped to escape the troublesome ditch of their social class–the Dalits, the outcasts, the untouchables of India. The untouchables drink from clay cups that no one in another class will have to touch. They have no access to medical care. The best job available may be nothing more than pushing a broom. Here in the school in the city of Secunderabad these fortunate children from Dalit homes benefit from a mission school where they learn English and other basic subjects, and they learn something about themselves that they did not get in their upbringing: a view of themselves as valuable, as having worth. Across India the vast majority of the 250 million Dalits lead lives of endless uncertainty.

Dignity is the word we use for this. Summed up in this one word is a truth embedded in the creation account:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27).

“Inalienable rights” is the way some national constitutions and declarations of human rights define dignity. The Abrahamic faiths see in “the image of God” far more:

  • purpose
  • design
  • beauty
  • intelligence
  • intentionality
  • self-awareness
  • spirituality
  • morality.

This is life with value. Inestimable value. Yet the indignities of life–those imposed on us and those we bring on ourselves–undermine the value of life.

Create your own Bible Gateway free personal account and you’ll immediately upgrade your Bible Gateway experience. Do it right now!

Everything is at stake regarding our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors regarding dignity.

Are we outraged by the bullying many kids are subjected to in their schools every day? Is anyone there for the woman who is raped and who needs to know that the violation of her body and her personhood has not lessened her worth? Will the perpetrators and victims in a tribal conflict come to a place or recognizing the mutual violation of their dignity which perhaps may have been going on for generations? Will they see indignity as the class wound that keeps them wounding each other? Are there ways for criminal justice systems to help convicts rehabilitate their lives instead of just punishing and discarding? What will it take for husbands to stop belittling their wives or wives their husbands? Why do some parents worship their children and others abuse them–in either scenario foiling any proper development of dignity?

[to be continued]


[If you believe this series will be helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]

Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

Filed under How to Live the Bible