Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Equal yet Unequal

The underlying principle of the United States has been the principle of equality.  We have fought to bring equal rights to all citizens of this great country.  While we have made progress in this endeavor it remains true that we are still far away from the equal utopia that many people envision.  Perhaps part of the reason for this is because people are not equal, and there is no legislation or education that can change this reality.

Consider what Ludwig von Mises wrote:
“What is imperishable in man—his spirit—is undoubtedly the same in rich and poor, noble and commoner, white and colored.

“Nothing, however, is as ill-founded as the assertion of the alleged equality of all members of the human race.  Men are altogether unequal.  Even between brothers there exist the most marked differences in physical and mental attributes” (Liberalism: The Classical Tradition, p. 9).

I think it is important to remember a couple of truths when it comes to talking about equality.  First, there are certain rights that everyone has, as the Declaration of Independence points out.  These rights are the rights to life, liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness.  If we look at this from the angle of salvation we see that everyone is in the same boat and in need of salvation.  None of us can achieve salvation, but we must depend on Christ Jesus to rescue us.  In other words salvation is a gift given to us no matter who we are or what we have done. 

The second thing we need to remember is that just because things are unequal doesn’t suggest superiority and inferiority.  The apostle Paul uses the image of a body to make this very point.  In 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 Paul writes:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

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. On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together
(ESV).

Each person has the ability to contribute something to society, just as each disciple of Christ is able to contribute to the health and growth of the Church.  You are talented in areas that I am not talented in, just as I am gifted differently than you are, and neither one of us are inferior, but we are different.  It are these differences that enable a society to have a division of labor which makes that society productive and prosperous. 

Equality is a myth.  When God created us He did not create us equally, rather He created us uniquely, and this is a very good thing because it forces us learn to work together and to depend on one another for what we need.  Yet, when it is all said and done what matters most is not a person’s talents or achievements but their character.  People of good moral character are the people who are able to do the most good in this world, not the most gifted.  May we strive to be people of character.

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