What’s So Wrong With Privilege? – The Biblical Perspective

South Carolina 2017 Eclipse Path Map
South Carolina 2017 Eclipse Path

Yesterday, many of us were blessed by God Almighty to witness a total eclipse of the sun – an awesome (and I very rarely use that word) demonstration of His power and glory. But for some of us clouds obscured the display. Others live outside the path of totality, and were unable to make the journey, so they could see only a partial eclipse or none at all. This was the fifth time in my life that I’ve been privileged to see a solar eclipse – one partial, three total, and one annular. I just happened by God’s grace to be in the right place at the right time with a view unobstructed by clouds, and for those opportunities I thank and praise the Almighty.

One of the bloggers I follow – Matt Walsh – wasn’t so blessed, and wrote a satirical post in his blog decrying Eclipse Privilege. I thought it was pretty funny, and even wrote a sarcastic (go figya) reactionary response about being fed up with all the whining from the “Eclipse Deficient.” I noticed at the time that one person had apparently not gotten or disliked Matt’s joke, and posted a serious response. I dismissed that person’s outrage as either a very subtle satirical joke of his own, or a fluke. Then this morning, I opened up my feed to find an explosion of heated – often childish – talk about the concept of privilege in response to Matt’s joke. Immediately, I began to wonder just whatever happened to America’s ability to laugh at itself, but that’s a subject for another BriRant. I started to ponder once again the concept of so-called “White Privilege,” and then a startling question occurred to me – What’s so wrong about it? After all, I know that God ordains all things, and allows pain and suffering in the world along with the immeasurably joy that may only be found in knowing Him. God’s will is always perfect, always has been, and always will be. So what is God’s purpose in allowing and/or ordaining White Privilege – or any other inequality among people for that matter?

First off, in compliance with the “truth in blogging” principle, let me just state for the record that yes – I’m a Christian white male heterosexual,  and no – I’ve never known true hunger (as anyone can discern immediately from even the most fleeting glance at a photograph of me). To deny that I was blessed by the Almighty merely by the circumstances of my birth with a better chance of material success in life – as humankind defines such success – than many others would be disingenuous. My parents weren’t in the Kardashian or Trump class by any means, but none of their six children was ever wanting for food, shelter, clothing, health care, or  opportunity for advancement – largely due to my father’s steadfast labor at a job he admittedly loved more than life itself, and my mother’s uncanny ability to stretch a dollar, and make the best of any situation. My parents learned these skills from their own parents who were white pioneers who moved into the American west in the very late nineteenth century, and strove hard to carve a living from it through the years of the Great Depression, and two World Wars. Yes, I do realize that my grandparents did so after our society had displaced and outright murdered the original occupants of the land, and I do not intend to defend the concept of “Manifest Destiny” in this post or anywhere else. Our country’s treatment of the Native Americans was and is indefensible, but the fact of the matter, whether I like it or not, is that my forebears obtained for me my very life largely at the expense of the lives of others. I freely admit that fact, while at the same time not feeling the need to defend my own right to exist. As I said at the beginning, God has for some reason ordained that I do exist in this time and place, and the purpose of this BriRant is to explore why that might be.

No one can deny that stark inequality of opportunity exists in the world. Some of us were born taller, better looking (by the world’s fickle standards), smarter, or richer (monetarily) than others. Indeed, although God has blessed me in many ways for which I am duly grateful, He did not see fit to bless me with great physical stature. Those freakishly tall people who deny that there is such a thing as “Tall Privilege” have never felt the pain a short person feels in the movie theater sitting behind the tall guy with the cowboy hat.

BTW – That was an (admittedly lame) attempt at humor to lighten the mood a little, so no hate mail, please!

But I digress…

It would also be dishonest not to acknowledge that the inequality we see throughout the world is often strongly slanted in favor (once again by earthly standards) of various broad classes of people at the expense of other classes. For the time being, and for the last few hundred years, history has strongly favored Caucasian, Christian males over other classes – although that trend is rapidly changing. To those who so adamantly decry “White Privilege,” and “Male Privilege” in the United States of America today though, I would point out that all Americans have been greatly blessed over practically all other classes of people for the past few generations. As the “greatest generation” of Americans whose sacrifices brought America into world preeminence passes away one-by-one, fewer and fewer Americans can rightly say that they did anything to earn the privileges we enjoy. Even today, as American influence in the world wanes, the vast majority of Americans are far better off than almost all the other people in the world.

Furthermore, all human beings have an element of “privilege” in that they were placed by God at the top of the food chain. God Himself declares this:

26Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [Genesis 1:26-28 NKJV]

Yet the blessings of God have obviously not been distributed evenly to all people. For example, God has allowed some people to be born blind, not so that eyes would be taken by force from the sighted and given to the blind, but that the sighted would assist the blind wherever necessary to make their way in the world, and that the sighted would allow the blind to do for themselves whatever they are able. God allows children to be conceived with serious genetic “defects” such as Down Syndrome, or tetra-amelia, not so that they would be eliminated from their mothers’ wombs before birth (or shockingly even murdered afterward), as advocated by eugenicists like Margaret Sanger, and now being implemented as a matter of public policy by some national governments, but rather so that those blessed to be born “normal” might demonstrate love for all mankind by shouldering some of the burdens forced upon such children at birth, and in so doing bring glory to the Maker of us all. God has given a place of honor in His kingdom to all human beings who seek Him. In his first letter to the church in Corinth, the apostle Paul likened the human community (specifically the Church of believers in the Gospel of Jesus Christ) to the diverse parts of a single body whose various members are all essential to the healthy functioning of the body as a whole:

20But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. [1 Corinthians 12:20-26 – NKJV]

Given that God has obviously, ordained or at least allowed inequality in various forms, the question arises, “Why?” What is the lesson that God is trying to teach us through it? Now please, dear readers, don’t misunderstand my meaning. Before the hate mail starts to rain down, I assure you that – as I said above – I am by no means trying to defend the evil and blasphemous concept of “Manifest Destiny” proposed in the late 1800s as a rationalization for the genocide perpetrated against the indigenous Americans by the European immigrants to the Americas in the last 500 years. Nor would it even enter into my mind to defend the abject evil of the African slave trade in America in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries by citing the so-called “curse of Canaan” found in Genesis 9:25 – yet another blasphemous, purposeful misinterpretation of scripture used by evil (yes – mostly white) men to rationalize their own sins against their fellow men.

It seems to me that God’s purpose in establishing the inequality we see all around us is not so that we should try to eliminate it by so-called “reparation” payments from those who have more to those who have less. In the first place, this would be virtually impossible to implement practically in any sort of fair and equitable manner. Karl Marx’ (in)famous mantra – “From each according to his ability to each according to his need.” – may sound pretty in philosophical writings, and intellectual discussions, but the history of the twentieth century testifies to mankind’s abject unwillingness to implement the sort of utopian society it promised. In fact, probably more people died in twentieth century warfare over the communist ideology than any other mad scheme that dismal period inspired – including, I might say, even the Nazi’s “final solution.” In short, communism simply doesn’t work. People will readily fight over resources, even to the death. Those that have resources will fight to retain them, whether or not they did anything themselves to obtain them, and regardless of whether they actually need them. Those without resources, will fight to wrest them from those who have them, without any question of whether they have a need for them or thought to what they will do with them once they have them. There will always be those who attempt to work the system. Some who have resources needed by others will try to withhold them even to their own detriment, simply to “have and to hold” for no apparent reason, like Priscilla and Aquila did in Acts chapter 18. Similarly, there will always be others who work the system by feigning need in order to obtain so-called “entitlements” they don’t really deserve or require. Furthermore, it seems clear that God intended for some people to possess resources that others require. If such inequality is established by God, it would be futile for mankind to attempt to override His will which will always prevail.

No. The forced “redistribution of wealth” being called for today on America’s streets, in her news media, and even in the halls of governmental power isn’t the “fix” to so-called “privilege.” Rather than eliminating inequality, I believe that God’s intent is that we should use it for the betterment of mankind as a whole, and for the glorification of God. Surely, this applies not only to material wealth but to the spiritual blessing of faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God intends us not to hoard our blessings (material and spiritual), but to share them with those who ask us in true need as Jesus Himself commanded:

“Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. [Matthew 5:42 – NKJV]

Of course, no discussion of the concept of privilege would be complete without a corollary exploration of the concepts of entitlement and inheritance. The Bible is crystal clear on the subject of entitlement – there is none.

6But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; 8nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, 9not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
10For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. 11For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. 12Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread. [2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 – NKJV]

No one is deserving to possess anything whatsoever except the rightful judgement for our sins – death. Any material possessions we may acquire here in this life have been given to us purely by the grace of God Almighty in order that we might be proper stewards in His place of the things He has entrusted to us, and share those gifts with those in need as Jesus taught in Matthew 5:42 above. Furthermore, any power or knowledge we may have also come from Him, and Him alone. Our total dependence upon Him for all that we need and have must necessarily humble us, and bring us to the implied realization that none of us is inherently any better or worse than any other, but we have all been blessed by God Almighty in varying degrees for His good pleasure alone, so that He may be glorified by the manner in which we share His gifts.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. [James 1:17]

1“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. [John 15:1-8 – NKJV]
 

For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? [ 1 Corinthians 4:7]

There is perhaps no aspect of the modern rhetoric surrounding the idea of privilege more controversial than the topic of inheritance from one generation to the next. The fact that children do not earn their inheritance from their parents is branded as totally unfair to those parents unable to provide an inheritance to their children because they themselves received none from their own parents. Parents even lament the fact that they must leave the fruits of their labor to their own children whom many consider undeserving. King Solomon complained bitterly about this nearly a millennium before the birth of Christ:

18Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. 19And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity. 20Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun. 21For there is a man whose labor is with wisdom, knowledge, and skill; yet he must leave his heritage to a man who has not labored for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. [Ecclesiastes 2:18-21 – NKJV]

Yet tied up in this passionate discussion is deep seated hypocrisy. Like most parents, my own forsook many of the pleasures they might have garnered from the fruits of their labors in order that their children might enjoy a “better life” (whatever that might mean). Since there were six of us, our individual inheritances will not be large ones, but God willing, we will all receive a little something. Similarly, my wife and I also deferred pleasures of our own in order to provide an inheritance for our children. Parents have been sacrificing in this way for the sake of their children since Adam and Eve. I would venture to say that each and every person who laments so loudly the evil of privilege, and the undeserved nature of the inheritance “privileged” children receive from their parents without having earned it, is all the while striving to provide an “undeserved” inheritance for her/his own children. Very simply, none of us really thinks of ourselves as being privileged, or our children as undeserving. We consider ourselves to be the exception – outside the realm of the evil exploiters we cry out against. Yet in our self-righteousness on this topic, we all seem to forget that we have received all those things which we have deluded ourselves into thinking of as our own earned possessions merely on loan from their true owner – our Heavenly Father, given to us for His good pleasure to be used for His glory alone.

Jesus also taught on the subject of privilege, saying that those who had been blessed were subjected to a heavier burden to share with those who hadn’t been so blessed. But it was the ultimate privilege of the totally unmerited gift of faith in His Gospel to which Jesus was referring when He preached on the subject of privilege and the corresponding responsibility which comes with it:

42And the Lord said, “Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? 43Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. 44Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. 45But if that servant says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, 46the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. [Luke 12:42-48 – NKJV]

Of course the most important gift the privileged may share is the very Gospel of Jesus Christ itself:

Mankind was created in perfection by God to have dominion over His creation as we saw above in Genesis 1:26-28. But mankind rebelled against the commandments of God, and through his rebellion, man brought sin, suffering, and death into the hitherto perfect world. Since that time, every human being has been born with a sinful nature, and lived under threat of death – the rightful punishment for our sins. Despite our rebellion, though, God loved us so much that He made a way for sinful man to be reconciled to Him. He Himself became a man in the flesh of Jesus Christ. He was born without sin, and lived a perfectly sinless life so that He could become the perfect sacrifice needed to take the punishment for our sins upon Himself, and die on the cross in our place. Yet, being Almighty God, death could not hold Him, and on the third day He rose from the grave, signifying the gift of eternal life and forgiveness of sin we may all receive from Him if we but believe His Gospel in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is LORD of all.

Jesus’ final commandment before ascending back to Heaven was to share this Gospel with any who would hear it:

18And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. [Matthew 28:18-20 – NKJV]

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