Eugene V. Debs, the legendary Socialist leader, once mocked in an editorial the notion that a common railroad worker such as Debs once was could be “equal” to the grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, who got his start with $2 million in the bank. “If a locomotive fireman could work 4,444 years, 300 days each year, at $1.50 per day, he would be in position to bet Mr. Vanderbilt $2.50 that all men are born equal.”

Firstly, it’s no wonder Debs was so effective in his day with wordplay such as that.  Secondly, it’s “created equal,” not “born equal.”  If you are going to reference the Declaration of Independence, do it right — and please, show respect for God by not deliberately deleting references to Him and His work.

But thirdly, and primarily for our purposes here, what standard of equality are we using?  Since when does wealth — particularly inherited wealth — constitute a measure of personhood?  One might as well use height.

I believe Thomas Jefferson meant that each person has equal value and deserves equal fairness under the law and dignified treatment from his neighbors.  And I think he was right.  If Adam and Eve were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), and if we are all descended from Adam and Eve (Acts 17:26), then we are all equal.  And no edict of government or cruelty of man can change that.

The same principle applies again in Jesus.  Galatians 3:28 states that all Christians are equal.  Again, we are not the same.  We have various roles in the body (Ephesians 4:11).  But an elder or preacher’s position brings him no closer to God than the elderly woman in the pew or penitent sinner on the front row.  The poor man in shoddy clothing is every bit the man that the one in fine clothes is (James 2:2-4).

God does not play favorites (Acts 10:34-35).  Shame on us if we do.  And shame on us if we use “equality” as a rationale for ignoring God’s words regarding our respective roles in the church and family.  If we accept God’s word in the one area, we must respect it in the other. 

Similar Posts