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Dignity

In our casual society, it may seem that we have run out of room for dignity. The way men and women now speak, act, and dress often falls far short of what we would consider to be dignified. Instead, disrespect is both conveyed and received by those whose speech, behavior, and clothing is patently undignified. Moreover, anyone who attempts to uphold his or her dignity may be considered to be arrogant, out of touch, and out dated.

However, dignity must be a defining characteristic in the lives of Christians. It is to be a centerpiece of our prayers according to 1Timothy 2:1-2:

1First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

Notice that again: our prayers on behalf of our fellow men and civil rulers are to be that we may live with one another in tranquility, quietness, godliness, and dignity. Certainly, if we are praying for the outcome of dignity, we ought to work toward that outcome by behaving in a dignified manner. Moreover, dignity should be on our minds, for Philippians 4:8 tells us to let our minds dwell on "whatever is honorable," in which case the word "honorable" is from the same Greek word that is translated as "dignity" or "dignified" in other passages of the New Testament.

To have dignity in our lives, we need to have a proper understanding of its meaning. The word "dignity" means "venerable" or "honorable." In Greek, the word is semnos (σεμνός), and it is derived from the verb sebō (σέβω), which means "to revere" or "to worship." This does not mean that we are to act as the objects of worship as if we expect someone else to worship us, but rather it means that we should behave as subjects of worship. In other words, a dignified person is one who behaves properly as a worshiper of God. Our behavior should have a worshipful quality.

With that understanding, let us consider the Scriptures' directions for leading "a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1Tim. 2:1-2). Every category of Christian is instructed to be dignified in behavior. In Titus 2:2, older men are told to be "temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance." This comes as no surprise, for dignity is most often associated with older men who have gained wisdom and respect for their years of experience. Similarly, an elder of the church is described as "one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity" (1Tim. 3:4). Likewise, deacons "must be men of dignity" (1Tim. 3:8). Again, there is no surprise here, for we would expect leaders within the church to be dignified.

Older men and leaders in the church are not the only persons who should be dignified. Notice Titus 2:6-8:

6Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

Even young men are expected to be dignified. This is contrary to modern American culture, which trains young men to be foolish, disrespectful, and dishonorable. A young man is often most admired by his peers when he acts as an immature fool, becomes the class clown, rebels against authority, constantly flirts with trouble, chases young women, and speaks filth. This is the world's expectation of him, but God calls on him to be dignified.

Furthermore, 1Timothy 3:11 says that "women must likewise be dignified." It is sometimes charged by worldly people that women in the church are treated as second-class citizens. This is far from the truth. In fact, women are to be dignified and to be treated with the utmost respect. Whereas our culture teaches women to be immodest, flirtatious, and foolish, or to be domineering and rebellious, God calls women to dignity. Concerning an excellent wife, the Scripture says that "strength and dignity are her clothing" (Prov. 31:25). Indeed, a woman of God will adorn herself with dignified behavior that will command the respect of others (1Pet. 3:1-6).

Therefore, let us be dignified as the Lord would have us to be. This does not mean that we are to be arrogant, aloof, or humorless, but rather it means that we are to conduct ourselves in ways that convey our reverence for God and show a God-directed attitude. Our behavior should cause others to glorify God (Matt. 5:16), and our personal dignity will serve a sign that points to our glorious Lord.

Stacey E. Durham




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