THE PERILS OF PRIVILEGE
Bruce's Beat 2-18-2018
Religiously, one of the perils of privilege is to approach God’s blessings and favors as earned or merited. This can create another peril, where one becomes elitist or snobbish towards others. This was the attitude of the Pharisees that Jesus condemned in Matthew 23. It was also an attitude that Paul, a former Pharisee, spoke of in his letter to the Romans.
The apostle Paul posed some powerful questions to these self-confident individuals, “You therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law?” – Romans 2:21-23.
In the context, Paul is showing that the whole world stands condemned in sin and the whole world needs the blood of Jesus Christ to be justified. This was for the idolatrous Gentiles, but also for the privileged Jews as well. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, Jew and Gentile – Romans 1:16. After showing the necessity of the gospel for the Gentiles in Romans 1, Paul then showed the necessity of the gospel for the Jews in Romans 2. In Romans 3, Paul summarized the situation and said, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” – verse 23.
The Jews had been chosen by God, but it was a choice of God’s grace, not their merit. Moses tried to remind them of this in his farewell sermon. “The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.” – Deuteronomy 7:7. They were not loved because they were special, but they were special because God loved them! And they needed to live up to the obligations of being chosen by God.
Christians are the people of God today, “just as He chose us in Him” – Ephesians 1:4; see also Titus 2:14 and 1 Peter 2:9. As such we should not think that we are entitled to salvation or blessings, but instead we should humbly take up the responsibilities of being chosen by God. With great privileges come great responsibilities.
May we declare with Paul, “By the grace of God, I am what I am and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10.