Human Dignity—Possible for All
“We must build a new world—a far better world—one in which the eternal dignity of man is respected.”—U.S. PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, U.S.A., APRIL 25, 1945.
LIKE many in the years following World War II, President Truman believed that man could learn from his past and realize “a new world” with dignity for all. Sad to say, modern history presents a different reality. “The eternal dignity of man” continues to be trampled on because the root of the problem lies, not with man, but with man’s greatest enemy.
The Root of the Problem
The Bible identifies this enemy as Satan the Devil, a wicked spirit creature who from the beginning of man’s history has challenged God’s right to rule. From Satan’s contact with Eve in the garden of Eden, his goal has been to draw humans away from serving their Creator. (Genesis 3:1-5) Think of the disastrous effects on Adam and Eve when they gave in to the Devil’s urgings! The immediate consequence of their disobeying God’s law regarding the forbidden fruit was that the two of them “went into hiding from the face of Jehovah God.” Why? Adam confessed: “I was afraid because I was naked and so I hid myself.” (Genesis 3:8-10) Adam’s relationship with his heavenly Father and his view of himself had changed. He was ashamed and no longer felt comfortable in Jehovah’s presence.
Why would the Devil want to see Adam’s self-respect diminish? Because man is made in God’s image, and Satan delights to see him act in a way that mars his reflection of God’s glory. (Genesis 1:27; Romans 3:23) This helps to explain why acts of humiliation pervade man’s history. As “the god of this system of things,” Satan has promoted this spirit “during the time that man has dominated man to his injury.” (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ecclesiastes 8:9; 1 John 5:19) Does this mean that proper human dignity has been lost forever?
Jehovah Dignifies His Creation
Think again of the conditions in the garden of Eden before Adam and Eve sinned. They had plentiful food, rewarding work, and the prospect of healthy, unending life for themselves and their offspring. (Genesis 1:28) Every aspect of their existence underscored God’s loving, dignified purpose for mankind.
Did Jehovah’s view of human dignity change when Adam and Eve fell from perfection? No. He showed consideration for the shame they now felt at being naked. Lovingly, God provided “long garments of skin” to replace the loin coverings of fig leaves that they had sewn together for themselves. (Genesis 3:7, 21) Rather than leave them in their shame, God treated them with dignity.
Later, when dealing with the nation of Israel, Jehovah showed compassion for orphans, widows, and alien residents—members of society who are most often subject to abuse. (Psalm 72:13) For example, when harvesting their grain crops, olive trees, and vineyards, the Israelites were told not to return for the gleanings. Rather, God commanded that those gleanings “should stay for the alien resident, for the fatherless boy and for the widow.” (Deuteronomy 24:19-21) When applied, these laws removed the need for begging and provided dignified work for even the poorest individuals.
Jesus Dignified Others
While on earth, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, demonstrated interest in the dignity of others. For example, when in Galilee, he was approached by a man in an advanced stage of leprosy. According to the Mosaic Law, to avoid infecting others, the leper was required to call out: “Unclean, unclean!” (Leviticus 13:45) However, this man neglected to shout a warning as he approached Jesus. Instead, he fell upon his face and begged Jesus: “Lord, if you just want to, you can make me clean.” (Luke 5:12) How did Jesus respond? Jesus did not chastise the man for breaking the Law, nor did He ignore or avoid the man. Rather, he dignified the leper by touching him and saying: “I want to. Be made clean.”—Luke 5:13.
On other occasions, Jesus demonstrated his ability to heal without any physical contact—at times from a distance. In this case, however, he chose to touch the man. (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 10:51, 52; Luke 7:1-10) Because the man was “full of leprosy,” it had no doubt been years since he had had any physical contact with another human. How comforting it must have been once again to feel someone’s touch! Having his leprosy cured was surely all that the man had hoped for. Yet, Jesus’ manner of curing him no doubt helped restore something more—the man’s dignity. Is it realistic to believe that such concern for the dignity of others could exist in today’s society? If so, how would it be manifested?
The Rule That Dignifies
Jesus stated what many consider to be the most famous instruction ever given regarding human relations: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) This Golden Rule, as it is often called, moves one to respect one’s fellowman, hoping for the same in return.
As history shows, applying this rule does not come naturally—quite often just the opposite is true. “I actually used to enjoy humiliating others,” says a man we will call Harold. “With just a few words, I could leave them flustered, embarrassed, and sometimes in tears.” But something happened that caused Harold to change the way he treated others. “Several of Jehovah’s Witnesses started to call on me. Looking back, I’m ashamed to think of some of the things I said and the way I sometimes treated them. But they never gave up, and little by little, the Bible’s truths touched my heart and moved me to change.” Today, Harold serves as an elder in the Christian congregation.
Harold is living proof that “the word of God is alive and exerts power and is sharper than any two-edged sword and pierces even to the dividing of soul and spirit, and of joints and their marrow, and is able to discern thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) God’s Word has the power to touch a person’s heart and change his thinking and behavior. This is the key to dignifying others—a heartfelt desire to help rather than to hurt, to honor rather than to humiliate.—Acts 20:35; Romans 12:10.
Proper Dignity Restored
It is this same desire that compels Jehovah’s Witnesses to speak with others about the Bible’s wonderful hope. (Acts 5:42) There is no finer way to show respect for and to dignify one’s fellowman than by sharing with him “good news of something better.” (Isaiah 52:7) “Something better” includes putting on “the new personality,” which will deaden the “hurtful desire” to humiliate others. (Colossians 3:5-10) It also includes Jehovah’s purpose soon to remove the conditions and attitudes that rob man of his dignity, along with the instigator, Satan the Devil. (Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:9, 10; Revelation 20:1, 2, 10) Only then, when the earth is “filled with the knowledge of Jehovah,” will dignity for all finally be realized.—Isaiah 11:9.
We invite you to learn about this wonderful hope. By associating with Jehovah’s Witnesses, you will find out for yourself that applying Bible principles dignifies others. And you will be able to learn how God’s Kingdom will soon bring about ‘a new and far better world,’ a world in which “the eternal dignity of man” will be a reality, never to be trampled on again.
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Keeping Integrity Preserved Their Dignity
During World War II, over 2,000 of Jehovah’s Witnesses were sent to Nazi concentration camps because of their beliefs. Noting the remarkable way in which they demonstrated their integrity, former Ravensbrück prisoner Gemma La Guardia Gluck relates in her book My Story: “At one point the Gestapo had announced that any Bible Student who renounced his beliefs and signed a statement to that effect would be given his freedom and be persecuted no longer.” Concerning those who refused to sign the statement, she writes: “They preferred to go on suffering and patiently waiting for the day of liberation.” Why did they take such a stand? Now in her 80’s, Magdalena, mentioned at the outset of the preceding article, explains: “Staying faithful to Jehovah was more important than staying alive at any cost. Keeping our dignity meant keeping our integrity.”*
For a detailed account of the Kusserow family, see The Watchtower of September 1, 1985, pages 10-15.
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Jesus dignified those he healed
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Jehovah’s Witnesses dignify others by sharing with them “good news of something better”