When I first started brainstorming how to teach the topic of human dignity to my eleventh-grade Morality class, I was eager but intimidated. Covering the topic of abortion was a must, but when I sat down to think about how I could cover the topic in a nuanced and compassionate, yet firmly pro-life manner, I was stumped. Many questions flooded my mind: ‘How do I take a firmly pro-life stance, while also expressing compassion for women who have suffered abortions?’ ‘How do I present the pro-life standpoint in a way that is transformative but not preachy?’ ‘How do I help my students see that all people have a right to life, even when that life involves suffering?’
“‘What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?’” They paid him thirty pieces of silver…” —Matthew 26:15
It is particularly haunting to see an exact price exchanged for a human life; the juxtaposition of a finite monetary amount and the life of an infinite being is incomprehensible. In Mathew’s Gospel above, the thirty-pieces figure has been traced back to earlier scriptural references, and is thought to signify the compensation due a master when a slave is killed.
No matter how the amount is derived, calculating the worth of a human life is at once both so absurd and crass that it renders the act of killing for a specific financial gain singularly troubling.