Who Are the Privileged?

When I taught English in New York a number of years ago, I worked with another teacher who often talked about her privileged upbringing. I can’t speak for her intentions, only how it made me feel.

Less than. Not good enough. Unworthy.

I felt as though I didn’t deserve as much as she did. I didn’t deserve to get my nails done every week, buy the latest fashions, or have a weekend in the Hamptons. I was somehow less of a person because I didn’t have more money or social connections.

Hill of Crosses 1The concept of privilege does this to us. It sets us up against each other. One person, or a group of people, have special rights and advantages that other people don’t have. It isn’t so much the manicures, clothes, or trips as it is what they represent: someone is better than someone else. Because one person has the means to obtain more material possessions, they are better. Because one person is educated from a certain university, they are better. Because one person is part of a certain country, religion, or political party, they are better.

We live in a world of lack. We’ve set up a system where we feel like there isn’t enough time, money resources, jobs, or pretty much anything. We’re constantly pitted against each other, competing for the same possessions and opportunities. This causes us to horde what we have out of fear that we’ll lose the security and status that money offers, the admiring looks that name brand clothes send our way, the job security a degree from a certain university will guarantee.

These are worldly constructs.

In God’s kingdom there are unlimited resources, time, and most importantly love. This last one, love, often sounds silly to people. What can love offer? You can’t buy or control true love. It doesn’t pay the bills or clean the house. It often feels unattainable and worthless in our fast-paced, currency driven world.

Scarier still, love is the great equalizer.

God loves us all the same. No exceptions. This love that we don’t understand transcends our social constructs and brakes down the barriers we’ve so carefully constructed to set ourselves apart.

The reality is that we live in the world we live in. We’re trapped in a system our ancestors created, and we have no choice but to contribute to it. We have to make money to pay for food, housing, clothing. But we do have choices about what kind of food, housing, clothing we buy. We have the choice to decide what these things mean to us. Will we define ourselves by them? Will we seek our self-worth and value from them?

Or will we bask in the knowledge that in God’s love we’re all privileged?