A few weeks ago, my students got into a conversation about rights and equality. This came about, without my prompting, over the current political environment. At one point, one of the students adamantly declared that all men were created equal because the Bible said it to be so.
I’m sure he was just parroting his parents, or some other authority figure in his life, because I sincerely doubt he has spent much time in the Bible. I mentioned briefly that his point actually came from the Declaration of Independence, not the Bible. He was speechless at the thought, just as I imagine many would be in our day and age. The Bible never seems to say that we are created equal in so many words.
But before we go further, we must define our terms. First, if we are created equal, in what way? Second, are we created with the same gifts and talents? Third, are we created with the same roles in life and callings? Fourth, are we created with the same eternal destinies? Finally, what about the equality of opportunity?
How Are We Created Equal?
First, we are created equal in the sense that all of us are endowed with the image of God. In Genesis 1-2, we find that God makes man in His own image, male and female, and this image sets us above the rest of all creation. It is in this principle that we find the need to recognize the dignity of every human being since all mankind are image bearers. (Read “Why is Abortion a Sin Against God?”)
Secondly, we are created equal in that we are all sinners and in need of being saved from our sin. Romans 3-5 shows that this truth has been with the people of God since the beginning of time. We fell in the Garden of Eden with Adam, therefore, we need to be redeemed from our sin, or face eternal damnation. We are all equally deserving of death and eternal punishment.
So in these two ways, we are created equal.
Are We Created With the Same Gifts and Talents?
This should be obvious to all, but alas, in our day and age of silliness, many are trying to declare that we are. When the Apostle Paul speaks of the body of Christ, he shows us that we all have different purposes and roles in the body. I recognize that this is speaking only of those redeemed in Christ, but the truth found here is also seen in the wider culture.
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 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. 16 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. 17 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? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).
The point is that we are not all equal. Some of us have been given greater gifts than others, yet we are all to use our gifts and abilities for His glory. Jesus indicates this in the parable of the talents. He gives one man 5 talents, another 2, and another man just 1 talent and then goes away. The men are judged according to their use of the talents they were given. No, the gifts given were not equal, but the responsibility to use those gifts for His glory was equal.
Are we created with the same roles in life?
The simple answer is that we are not created with the same roles in life and work. Simply look at the differences between men and women. Men were created to work and exercise dominion over the earth. Women were created to be helpers to their husbands in that calling, and, to give birth to the next generation of image bearers.
The problem arises because of sin in us and in the world. Both callings have become extremely difficult because of the fall of mankind. But this does not reduce or remove the callings placed on us. Both men and women are given roles ordained by God, so in that sense there is equality, yet because the roles differ, there is inequality. I would say that women actually have the more noble calling, in that they have the wonderful opportunity of giving birth to those who bear God’s image.
But even among men, we are not created equally in our roles and callings. Just the fact that we are given gifts and talents, shows that there will be a disparity among some. A simple illustration makes the point. When it comes to golf, I do not have the same abilities and talents as Tiger Woods. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I will never be able to golf like he does. On rare occasions, I might have a single shot like he does. But when he makes the same shot, he doesn’t jump up and down like a fool in celebration because he is accustomed to having such shots on a regular basis.
Now, I can get upset over the disparities in my chosen hobby. Or I can accept where God has placed me in life, trusting that God was wise in not giving me great golfing abilities. After all, if I were a great golfer, I might delude myself into thinking that I’m something special because I have abilities that others do not. That is pride and sin against God, which is the reason we are having this discussion to begin with.
Much of what is put forth today about equality is rooted in pride and covetousness. Many who do not have as much as others are angry with God because of the gifts, talents, and blessings He has given to them, or not given to them. Paul says that if we can change our status in life, then we should do so, but if not, then accept wherever God has placed us (1 Corinthians 7:21). When we realize that God is sovereign and it is He that places us where we are, then we can accept the disparity of gifts and talents that will always exist. He is the One who has given us what we have or withheld from us what we do not have. Therefore, we should trust in His provision when injustice comes our way.
Are we created with the same eternal destinies?
This is a harsh truth: we are not all created with the same eternal destinies. Paul shows us in Romans 9 that He has created some of us for honor, and others for dishonor. Paul is reminding us that God is indeed the potter, and we are merely the clay. He has made some for eternal glory, and some for eternal wrath.
You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?
The larger context of Paul’s message is that those in Christ are the ones destined for glory, and those who reject Christ, are condemned already. We can say with those who reject this truth: “this is not fair!” But when we understand God’s greater purpose of His glory, and understand what true fairness is, then we will rejoice when we find ourselves in Christ. Fairness would be for all mankind to spend all of eternity in hell with God’s righteous wrath resting upon all of us. That is fair, for we have all sinned against a holy and just God.
However, in His grace, He chose some to save. This was His decision, not ours. This was His will, not ours. Let us look at one of the most clear passages of Scripture on this issue, Ephesians 1:3-11. I know that it is a bit long for a blog post, but this passage shows us that it was both His decision to choose those who have been, are, and will be saved. This was done according to His eternal decree:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us[a] for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,
Remember that Paul is addressing believers in this letter, not non-believers. Non-believers, those who reject Christ as He is found in the gospel, have no real hope of salvation. Quite frankly, they don’t want the God of Scripture to begin with. No one truly desires God until that person is changed and converted by the power of the Holy Spirit. So it should comfort most people who are on the road to eternal damnation that they get to spend eternity away from Christ and His followers. If they wanted true salvation, they would turn to Christ for that salvation. But they don’t.
The point is that there is no equality in the afterlife, by God’s rich and merciful grace. We can say that we wish that all would come to know Him and be saved. However, we know from Scripture that this is not God’s plan for all mankind.
What About the Call for Equality of Opportunity?
This is typically the pressing question of the day. It is what drives so many politicians, the promise that there will be an equality of opportunity. The truth is that this idea is completely unobtainable and is merely a weapon used by politicians to set one group of people over and against another set of people. They know the truth about this, but love using this “cause” for their own personal gain.
But it will never happen. God never intended for us to all have the same opportunities in the world that others do. We can give this idolatry lip service all we want, but just the simple fact that God has ordained rich and poor alike, shows us it will never change.
As Jesus said, “For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.” So the promise to remove poverty from our world is a fool’s errand. It’s not that Jesus is cold or harsh, but given the nature of our fallen world, there will always be those who are rich, and everyone else fighting to get out of poverty.
Finally, I know that dealing with this topic is far more complex than I have laid out here. Yet, I think these things are worth saying. By doing so, we are reminded that this world is not our final destiny. For those in Christ, there is a world without injustice, without poverty, without inequality, and without sin, that we are to look forward to. We are not there yet. And this world we live in will always fall short of what it should be until Christ returns. “Come quickly Lord Jesus.”