One of the greatest deceptions engulfing humanity is considering money as more valuable than dignity. Apparently, a person is considered dignified when living in a decent home and driving a beautiful car. But that may, actually, reveal the deficiency of dignity in the individual concerned. This is the time to disabuse ourselves of this mythological fallacy.
For instance, in our society, we have people who are considered decent, yet unable to decry the evil actions of the ZANU PF government. They would rather be compliant, even though not agreeable with the misdemeanors of a rogue government. The maxim, “The existence of evil is a result of good people choosing to keep quiet in the face of evil” will forever be true.
In Christian circles, there are people who even condemn the likes of Johanna Mamombe for having chosen political activism. Scriptures are misused to imply that Christians are not expected to say anything even when governments commit flagrant evils. They assume that to be another way of protecting their own dignity rather than be viewed as dabbling in politics. But careful analysis reveals that to be the only way that takes away their own dignity.
As religious people, the High Priest and the Levi who passed by an injured man on the road-side, sought to preserve their dignity. Their religious activities were considered more important than helping a robbery victim in desperate need. As revealed in that parable of the Good Samaritan, those religious people were so undignified, as to be compared unfavorably to a Samaritan.
That parable was used in view of the Samaritans having been considered undignified when compared to the religious Jews. Among the Jews, the Samaritan infidels were considered undignified. You had to be a law-keeper and appropriately dressed to be considered dignified. Having since lost their original culture of law-keeping, the Samaritans had been reduced to the status of being undignified.
Just as commonly not understood by most people, what is viewed as undignified in another person, makes the critic undignified. Lack of dignity can be found more among Christians than it is among unbelievers. The greatest fallacy in Christianity is in waiting for God’s Kingdom—long-established by Jesus when He walked on this planet. Christianity requires adopting the status of being undignified before attaining the esteemed dignity. This happens to be another maxim, commonly missed by most of our respected clergy, in the Christian world.
Nothing requires a complicated analysis, where the author of Christianity can be used as an example. The common men could not have viewed Jesus as dignified when He went through the cross. Nothing appeared dignified in Him when condemned to die in the hands of the most degraded malevolent sinners of that time. Yet the greatest dignity, today, can be modeled only according to the name of Jesus.
In the eyes of common men, there was no dignity that could be associated with the apostles being inhumanly flogged before the Sanhedrin. They were reduced to being criminals when they were not criminals. A renowned scholar in the mold of Gamaliel succeeded in persuading the Jews against killing the apostles—accused of being the followers of Christ.
“…They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name. Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah”(Acts 5:36-42) (NIV).
Clearly, such savage treatment did not deter the apostles who understood the principle of dignity as not associated with avoiding disgrace in Christ’s name. There was no self-pity in those apostles. The fact that they rejoiced after having been flogged is testimony that dignity comes, only after having suffered disgrace for the Lord’s name.
Flogging could be understood by many as having been sadistic and most degrading, unimaginable in civilized societies. Sadly, even in modern times, we still have the most barbaric governments, practicing torture, assumed as an appropriate method of punishment.
According to the Jewish Library, Flogging was administered as a substitute for capital punishment. This was meant to curb unacceptable behaviors in their communities. Yet the flogging punishment served only to spur the apostles to continue doing what they knew to be what brought actual dignity. [https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/flogging]
“It appears that, where no other punishment was expressly prescribed, flogging was in biblical law the standard punishment for all offenses (Deut. 25:2). The exegetical difficulties which arose in view of the preceding verse (25:1) gave rise to such restrictive interpretations as that the law of flogging applied only in limited cases of assault (Ibn Ezra, ibid.) or perjury (cf. Mak. 2b); but there need not necessarily be any connection between the two verses – the former being construed as a self-contained exhortation to do justice in civil cases as well as in cases of mutual criminal accusations (cf. Mid. Tan. to 25:1). It is noteworthy that flogging is the only punishment mentioned in the Bible as a general rule, and not in relation to any particular offense (but cf. Deut. 21:22 regarding postmortem hangings; see also *Capital Punishment), the only exception being the flogging prescribed, in addition to a *fine, for the slanderer of a virgin (Deut. 22:18).”
The maximum number of strokes to be administered in any one case is 40 (Deut. 25:3), “lest being flogged further, to excess, your brother is degraded before your eyes” (ibid.). While this number was later understood as the standard, a fixed number of strokes to be administered in each case (less one), there is no valid reason to assume that it was not, in fact, intended and regarded as a maximum limit – the preceding words, “as his guilt warrants” (25:2) indicating that the number of strokes was to be determined in each individual case according to the gravity of the offense, provided only they did not exceed the prescribed maximum. The scriptural intention to prevent any “degradation” of the human person is served by the fact that no discretion was allowed to the judges, who may tend to harshness or cruelty (Ibn Ezra, ibid.). There is no record of the manner in which floggings were administered in biblical times. Various instruments of beating are mentioned in the Bible (Judg. 8:7, 16; Prov. 10:13; 26:3; I Kings 12:11, 14; et al.), but any conclusion that they (or any of them) were the instruments used in judicial floggings is unwarranted.”
Apparently, this medieval punishment—administered as Jewish customs—had been meant to preserve dignity. This was intended to force people to remain dignified. Unfortunately, dignity cannot be enforced by anyone, as it comes through the ethical conduct of the individual concerned. By going through the cross and allowing His disciples to experience similar infliction, Jesus displayed the actual significance of dignity.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you”(John 15:13-15) (NIV).
Amassing properties and money for one’s own benefit is intended to make one look dignified, in the eyes of common men. But, unless prepared to confront the challenges faced by others in the environment, the person concerned would be undignified. How a person is perceived by others in the environment does not, necessarily, constitute the significance of dignity.
True datum on the subject of dignity will forever, remain in the adoption of altruism, rather than self-centeredness. What one does towards the benefit of others is what enhances his/her dignity. The iconic heroes of our time, remain dignified, even after their physical demise. Conversely, the notorious villains of our time remain undignified even after their physical demise.
A person can drive the most expensive vehicles, and live in dignified flashy suburban areas. Nevertheless, that may portray an undignified person living in dignified surroundings. His worth becomes reduced to the levels of the most undignified proportions. Yet a person may live within the most undignified environment, yet being the most dignified person, perpetually living, even after his physical demise.
In short, the physical things known to be valuable are dignified, only as perceived by other humans. Money and wealth hold no intrinsic dignity, except as determined by human beings. The dignity of any person is also determined by others, based on what others benefit from the person concerned.
This is why the name of Jesus lives on, approximately, two thousand years after His demise. This is why the names of the first-century apostles are as common, if not more, as any heroes of our time. While not easy to convince most people, in that dignity has nothing to do with money and wealth, the maxim remains indisputable.
Our problem is that we live in a world that is sustained in falsehood. Most of the celebrated characters in our environment deserve to be told the truth than hero-worshipping them. Yet most of the despised people deserve encouragement to continue with their noble convictions—seeking to benefit the down-trodden of society.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99