VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The dignity given by God to men and women easily can be lost if they give themselves over to the idolatry of wealth, Pope Francis said.

Like the people of Israel who built a golden calf in the desert, people can fall prey to the allure of wealth since “all idols have something gold,” the pope said Sept. 15 at an audience with members of the Italian Biblical Association.

“This calls to mind the attractive force of wealth,” he said, “and the fact that man loses his very dignity when wealth takes the place of God in his heart.”

The members of the biblical association were in Rome for a three-day conference that focused on the relationship between man and woman according to Scripture.

In his address, the pope told the participants it is essential to reflect on how men and women were “created and formed in the image and likeness of the Creator” as well as looking at the differences between the human person and other creatures.

“This helps us to understand the dignity we all have, men and women; a dignity that has its roots in the same Creator,” he said. “It has always struck me that our dignity is precisely that of being children of God.”

However, the pope warned, humankind’s God-given dignity can be “degraded” over time when “we make space in our hearts” for idols.

Christians are called not only to protect their dignity as children of God, Pope Francis said, but also to help others come to realize how precious they are in God’s eyes.

“When someone despises, segregates, discriminates, they do not spread dignity; they do the opposite. It would do us well to examine ourselves to discover if and when we spread dignity to our neighbor,” Pope Francis said.