I was reading an interesting article suggesting that "Christians" should embrace economic freedom, and was rather taken by the following paragraph:

Full article at http://tifwe.org/research/five-reasons-christians-should-embrace-economic-freedom/

We are told in Scripture that the righteous care about justice for the poor.14 Christians believe that poverty is an affront to human dignity. Justice means enabling the poor to elevate their dignity by helping them escape the trappings of poverty. There is no other way of organizing society that has lifted more people out of poverty than global markets which are supported by economic freedom. - See more at: http://tifwe.org/research/five-reasons-christians-should-embrace-economic-freedom/#sthash.EHH8yf5d.dpuf

I left the footnote (14) in there specifically, because I am aware of the Scripture that would support that claim. The sentence right after it -

Christians believe that poverty is an affront to human dignity.

however, doesn't have a footnote. I agree about justice - but dignity is not necessarily justice. They are different ideas. And, to be clear, it is a both widely accepted (you really can't go through seminary without hearing it, especially from the more liberal side of the campus), and frankly, it seems pretty obvious.

That said, I'm not sure I could make that case from Scripture. Pastorally? Yes. Psychologically? Sure. Spiritually? Sounds good to me. But, scripturally, I'm trying to understand where "we" got the idea that human dignity is inherently part of the Gospel message.

Indeed, you might even say (and I can't possibly comment on that) that total depravity and the universality of sin would, in practice contradict it.

Again, please do not read into what I'm saying - I'm not arguing it's not. I'm just trying to understand the basis behind it.

So, what am I missing?

  • How would you distinguish dignity from pride?
    – Rick
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 15:41
  • @Rick My answer assumes that the concept of dignity here is akin to humanity. The rupture in our relationships with God, man, creation and our self has made us less human
    – wax eagle
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 16:57
  • @waxeagle, You know I think I get it and I find that perspective very interesting. In essence we don't know what true humanity, the humanity that God intended and the dignity that follows. Personal dignity outside of God is another thing.
    – Rick
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 17:25

3 Answers 3


Ok, this is going to be more of a logical argument that's a bit jumpy and I don't have all of the scripture in mind, but there is scripture underpinning the ideas here:


  • We are created in the image of God. As such human dignity is established as a part of our pre-fall state
  • Poverty exists because of the broken relationship between God, the self, the creation, and other men.
  • Our job as Christians is to be the restoration. Healing broken relationships is part of that job.


Because Poverty is part of the fall, and our dignity is established based on a pre-fall standard, much link sin, poverty is a concept driven by the fall and is an affront to our dignity.

Because our job as Christians is to work to restore the relationships that the fall broke, confronting poverty and restoring the folks who are in poverty (restoring their relationships with the creation, their fellow man, and most importantly God), is a prime concern of Christians.

Loose Scriptural Basis

Caring for the poor, and providing them with dignity is an emphasis both of the law given to Israel and also a primary focus of the ministry of Jesus and the New Testament church. Jesus repeatedly gives wealthy people the instruction "sell all you have and give your money to the poor." The Old Testament law goes on for pages about widows and orphans, provides clear instructions for not harvesting part of your crops so that the poor may go an glean from the leavings. One of the very first things that the apostles do following the ascension of Christ is to appoint deacons to care for the widows, orphans and other poor folks.


Because God cares so deeply about the creation that is made in his image, and sees poverty as an affront to our dignity, he is very concerned about making sure that the poor among his people (before, during and after the ministry of Christ) are well cared for.

  • Ah, yes - Imago Dei. I think you're on the right track. I want to give this a little time to germinate, but this is a really good answer. Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 15:43

This may sound simplistic, but it's something I've been wanting to share for a long, long time with someone who will listen. It is simply this:

There is a huge difference between the words worth and worthy.

God alone is worthy. He is worthy of our worship, praise, adoration, and exaltation, not to mention (but I will, anyway) our entire beings--spirit, soul, and body (or heart, soul, mind, and strength). Worship, after all, is a celebration of the worthiness of God, which is borne out by the etymology of the word worship.

Worth, on the other hand, is not something we ascribe to God. Speaking of His worth is neither proper nor dignified. We ascribe worthiness to God, not worth. You do not ascribe worth to someone who is infinitely worthy.

I could be off base here, but when I think of worth, I think of the word value. Humanly speaking, value can certainly have an economic aspect, but there are people who, as the saying goes, know the price of everything and the value of nothing! Value is more than just a price tag. Value speaks of inherent worth and qualities to which a cost, or price tag, cannot be attached.

I've always wondered about the advisability of referring to people, who are created in the image of God, as "totally depraved," the first T in Calvin's TULIP. (I realize the word is depravity, not depraved!). Why go beyond what Scripture says in attaching the label "total depravity" to the human species? The truth is, people are simply dead in sin. Perhaps that's what the word depravity meant to Calvin. I do not know, though I could look it up.

The fact remains, one cannot get any worse than "dead in sins and trespasses," at least in terms of one's relationship with God. A corpse is incapable of having a relationship! That's what the Bible means by "dead in sins." Whether we've committed one sin, or a million and one sins, in God's sight we all are dead in sin.

Now I realize there are degrees of sin, and the Bible makes this very clear. God's judgment of sinners will be harsher one day for people guilty of heinous sins, such as mass murder and the like, than for your ordinary, "garden variety" sinner who refused to repent and believe. Nevertheless, the only type of Godward behavior a sinner can offer to God initially which has value in His estimation is belief, pure and simple.

Even belief or faith is a gift from God. He alone can make us alive in Christ. Our belief that sin separates us from God forever unless God interposes a sacrifice for sin, is the first step to a relationship with God; in other words, belief that no amount of good works can purchase salvation, and belief that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with holy God.

There is something of almost infinite worth in each human being. Notice I did not say "infinite worthiness," since worthiness, as I've already suggested, is an attribute of God alone. He alone is unqualifiedly good. He alone is goodness and holiness personified.

Christ truly died for sinners, but He did not die for worthless junk. God loves all humanity not because we are worthy of His love. Quite the opposite in fact. He loves us because we have worth in His eyes, not because He by nature is simply attracted to total depravity! God loves us in spite of our sin, which is the greatest manifestation of love, agape love. Jesus demonstrated that miraculous kind of love when He said on the cross,

"Father forgive them. They do not know what they are doing."

In conclusion, your final question is

"So, what am I missing?"

I suggest the missing piece of the puzzle you've created for us is that poverty, injustice, oppression, torture, the marginalizing of people, and discrimination against people on the basis of color, nationality, religion, socio-economic status, sex, age, disability, or the way they part their hair(!) are all offenses against people who have worth in God's eyes because they are created by God in His image, as tarnished as that image may be by sin.


Ecclesiastes 10:6 Folly is set in great dignity, and the rich sit in low place.

Habakkuk 1:7 They [are] terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves.

Dignity is viewed by most as an entitlement, a protocol of civil behavior. Only barbarians ignore this civil protocol and strip their enemies of their dignity.

The Bible does not prescribe dignity, but rather love. We are to love our neighbors and value them in our hearts the way God esteems them.

Nobility is rooted in dignity, after all a noble man is a ‘dignitary’. Human dignity celebrates the nobility of humanity, thus dignity enables the nobility of ‘Self’. Self-sovereignty is the human condition that isolates man from his Creator, yet it is our self-dignity that we fight the hardest to preserve.

Dignity often bypasses love and entitles mankind to “civil treatment” out of respect for humanity. Now, some may say humanity is entitled to dignity as a result of man being imaged in the likeness of God. And while this is partly true, the part that is true is generally ignored. Man is uniquely equipped to enable Christ (True Eternal Nobility) to be born out in his life. Therefore genuine dignity must come from God, it is not something that mankind measures out to one another.

Doctrines of Dignity are very cleaver, because they appeal to man’s higher calling, yet they remain outside of God. The Pharisees proclaimed Doctrines of Dignity as they prescribed condemnation, guilt and self-righteousness. They showcased their own personal dignity and would then lord over others that did not measure up.

Personal guilt is one of the chief tools of dignity. After all, a dignified person feels guilty about moral failure, so personal nobility is proven by guilt’s acknowledgement.

Christ has something to say in this regard, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:16).

Personal dignity expects noble behavior and disenfranchises God’s grace. Love is not an entitlement; love is a gift that flows from the Father and is born from the Holy Spirit.

Personal pride is another chief tool of dignity. A dignified person takes pride in the things they do, so personal dignity is proven by the care one gives to their personal work. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16) Pride reveals self-dignity, whereas humility reveals God.

The “poor in spirit” that Christ identified as “blessed” in Mathew 5: 3 holds no personal dignity. In contrast, the ‘dignified’ are strong in spirit and have a sense of personal significance. Snobbery, often as “blue bloods” is the fruit of dignity.

Galatians 3:18 says, “For if the inheritance [be] of the law, [it is] no more of promise: but God gave [it] to Abraham by promise.”

So genuine human dignity only comes from God and is extended to all of humanity. Personal-dignity is “pride”, a perspective that has journeyed with mankind since the fall.


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