One thing has struck me from watching all the recent conflict and hate all over the world, particularly in Western Democracies, and from listening to some of the rhetoric I hear from people who are fighting for “equality” is this …
The ONLY way to discern whether two things are equal or not is to compare them.
This takes me right back to when my children were very young and the “she’s got more cake than I have!” cry (or something similar) was a constant complaint. Children especially can’t bear to think that someone has more or better than they have and this affects their sense of well being. On multiple occasions, one child was perfectly content with what they were doing or what they had — UNTIL — they saw a sibling or another child with something more, or newer, or better.
Throughout the 1980s I worked for a local authority, the department had over 100 staff of different ages, different ethnicities and both genders in all sorts of roles. No two people were paid the same, even when they were at the same level. Their pay depended on multiple factors, including initial salary negotiations, (which would have been negotiated at interview and made taking into account things like previous experience, level of education and so on, and would have also been determined by the negotiating skill of the person being interviewed), then factor in length of time employed in the department, and so on.
If I had looked about and focused on what the people around me were being paid, what material difference would it make to my life if I knew their salary? The only thing it could possibly do was make me dissatisfied with my own salary. But if I had agreed to work for the salary I was being paid, wasn’t that enough?
There are two passages in the Bible which speak to this. The first is a parable Jesus tells about workers in a vineyard. The master employs workers in the morning who agree to work for a day’s wage. Throughout the day he goes back out and hires more people. When the time comes to pay the workers at the end of the day, he gives the same amount to those who had only been employed for the last hour as he did to those who had worked all day. The workers did exactly what my children used to do, they compared and moaned. But, said the master “didn’t you agree to work for what I paid you?” “don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?” (You can read the parable in Matthew 20:1-16).
The second is Paul, who writes to the Philippians: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12).
Sometimes when I listen to people bemoaning their lot as they make comparisons with people around them, I feel like screaming “stop being so childish!”. One of the best life lessons we can teach our children as they grow is that life will never be “fair” or “equal” as there are myriad differences between people every single one of which will impact life for the better, or for the worse. If we spend all our time and effort looking over our shoulder or sideways at other people to see how they are doing, then we are destined to live a life full of dissatisfaction and envy. One secret to being content is to stop looking around at what others are paid or given and be content with your own life.
This constant struggle for “equality” is fuelling dissatisfaction and conflict and is doing nothing to help the wellbeing of people, or the cohesion that makes for a peaceful society. In fact I would suggest it is positively harming it.
Here are some inequalities we should be more concerned about:
- Whoever has the Son has life but whoever does not have the Son does not have life (1 John 5:12).
- Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14).
The ultimate inequality is the one which divides those who are living in darkness and those living in light. This difference has eternal consequences.
Here are some of the equalities that we DO have.
- ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
- No one is righteous NO NOT ONE (Ecclesiastes 7:20).
- No one who relies on the law is justified by God (Galatians 3:11)
- There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
- God so loved the world that he gave his son that WHOEVER believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).
- For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes (Deuteronomy 10:17).
- The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
The Good news is that Jesus is an equal opportunity saviour, no matter your ethnicity, no matter your age, no matter your gender, the offer of salvation is extended to you.