I live in a theoretically egalitarian society.
I say theoretically because, although the Declaration of Independence which we, in my country, purport to honor, accept, and abide by (along with the Constitution of the United States) avers that “all men are created equal,” there’s difficulty in the very wording at the beginning:
Even Thomas Jefferson, in his forthright way, didn’t accept that women, or people of color, or non-land-owners fit into this “equal status.” Nowadays, of course, we hem and haw and say how things have changed and congratulate ourselves on being so much more advanced in a societally evolutionary state, but we, too, operate under our own set of peculiar standards and filter people through a sieve of our own making.
Every day, no matter how culturally sensitive we assure ourselves of being, we look at others and make judgments on how hard they work, by what kind of car they drive; or how intelligent they are, by the title of their job; or how worthy they are of existing at all, by whether or not they happen to reside inside a woman’s womb.
One way or another, we have a lamentable tendency of categorizing other human beings, assigning a mental value number to their lives, and justifying, all to frequently, a subtly different way of treating them based upon their income, education, appearance, or groups to which they belong.
“Well of course the President of the United States, or a Congressman, deserves our respect!” we are told.
Of course they do — and so does the woman who waitresses their table, or the man who mows their lawn, but for some reason we’re not expected to snap to attention when either one of those people walk into the room.
“My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism,” James says in the book by his name, 2:1. He goes on to explain:
“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there” or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
You bet we have, and we do it all the time. But such is the way of the world, and that is the point: in the world of men, the value of a man — or a woman, or a child, born or unborn — is significantly related to how much money he makes, how much power she holds, and how readily one recognizes his or her name, and for those who score high in these three areas, there is much glory and honor to be received from other men.
“But you are not to be like that,” Christ tells his disciples — us — in Luke 22:26. “Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.”
Our value, as humans, is not what we do, how much we make doing it, or whom we know, but rather, in who we are. And who we are, when we are Christians, are sons and daughters of God. There is no higher title than this.
God, unlike man, shows no favoritism, something Christians really need to get through our heads because there is a pervasive, and perverse, tendency to believe that we quite reasonably have what we have because we are so righteous, and thereby blessed by God. (Have you ever heard that tiresome dictum, “The U.S. has been blessed by God because it is a Christian nation?”)
While it is true that there are many promises blessing the man or woman who fears the Lord, and prosperity advocates point loudly to verses like Psalm 112:3 — “Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever,”
we would do well to remember that truth is three-dimensional, and as Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount addresses in Matthew 5, God’s ideas of blessings do not incontrovertibly include money. Jesus singles out the poor in spirit, mourners, the meek, those who seek God, the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers and the persecuted and He calls them blessed.
Quite frankly, these blessed people do not resemble the smug, self-satisfied, opulent “successful” people who attribute their lifestyle to their superior sense of Christianity. Some of these people have had the effrontery to look down upon their brothers and sisters of more humble station, and attribute that poverty to laziness, sleeping in too late, watching the wrong movies, and just a general sense of being “wrong.”
“If they were truly following God,” they sniff, “they would be where I am.”
I’m not sure that’s such a good place to be.
Where we are, and where we find our value as human beings, is in our position as God’s children, no longer slaves (or undervalued employees), but sons or daughters; and within that position, heirs with our Eldest Brother, Jesus Christ. (Galatians 4:7)
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