Friday, April 9, 2021

Equality or equity?

 "Equity, not equality" has become a bit of a war-cry lately. You see it and hear it everywhere--in researching for this post, I even found somebody relating it to the story in 1 Kings when King Solomon was faced with a decision between two women who were each claiming the same baby to be hers.

I bet you don't have to think too long before you know what conclusion they reached, because right now all we hear is how things should be equitable, not equal.

I've got to admit, it sounds good. I mean, how wonderful would it be if we could ensure that everyone's life turns out spectacularly? That each individual is successful--you know, happy, healthy, and wealthy? It would bring about that elusive utopia, right? We would all happily get along and love each other and everything would be all hunky-dory.

The problem is, in a fallen world a utopia simply isn't possible--and that's exactly what the current definition of "equity" would require. Granted, the way equity is being used today really doesn't fit with what it has always meant, but that's an Orwellian 1984-ish thing that has been happening a lot lately... so I'll use equity the way people are using the idea now. In that sense of the word, King Solomon only had one choice that would have truly been equitable--he should have gone ahead and split the baby in two. After all, that would have ensured that both women got the same outcome, right?

The United States wasn't--and shouldn't have been--founded on equity. The foundation on which our great country was built is summed up in one simple sentence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

We are equal because our Creator made us that way. Since the Creator made us to be equal and granted us certain rights, the government doesn't have the authority to try to regulate either. The U.S. government doesn't "grant" us our rights and doesn't determine our "worth" as citizens--those things come only from God. So the question then becomes, what is the Creator's sense of equality? Here's a great place to start: "For there is no partiality with God." (Romans 2:11)

And we'll go from there to this:

"Still the Eternal remains and will reign forever;
    He has taken His place on His throne for judgment.
So He will judge the world rightly.

    He shall execute that judgment equally on all people."
(Psalm 9:7-8)

The word that is translated as "equally" by The Voice is translated as "equity" in the NIV. The Hebrew word is "meyshar," which means "evenness" or "straightness." And perhaps most importantly in this situation, it's talking about how God judges. Since that's the case, let's go back to Romans 2 and look at the verses that come before verse 11:

"But because your heart is obstinate and shameless, you’re storing up wrath that will count against you. On the day of His choosing, God’s wrath and judgment will be unleashed to make things right. As it goes, everyone will receive what his actions in life have cultivated. Whoever has labored diligently and patiently to do what is right—seeking glory, honor, and immortality—God will grant him endless joy in life eternal. But selfish individuals who make trouble, resist the truth, or sell out to wickedness will meet a very different fatethey will find fury and indignation as the fruit of living in the wrongSuffering and pain await everyone whose life is marked by evil living (first for the Jew, and next for the non-Jew). But if you do what is right, you will receive glory, admiration, and peace (again, first for the Jew, then for the non-Jew). God has no favorites." (Romans 2:5-11)

When Paul wrote of God being impartial, he was talking about impartiality in judgment. He said that God holds everyone to the same standards, regardless of background. That's a whole different thing than people are talking about when they say "equity" today. In today's society, we're constantly being told that we should make sure everyone has the same outcome regardless of background. The problem with that? Outcomes are--and should be--based on merit.

Think back to school and those group projects that teachers were so fond of having you do. I'm sure there was at least once that someone in your group didn't pull their own weight and everybody else had to pick up the slack. At the end of it all, when all 4 of you got the A that only 3 of you worked for, didn't it rub you the wrong way? You knew deep down in your core that only 3 of you deserved that grade; there was something inherently wrong with the person who didn't do the work getting an A on the project.

Uh oh, that makes me guilty of believing in another offensive idea: meritocracy. It's become a dirty word in most circles, with many people even coming out to say that the idea goes against Christianity. Why, then, did Paul tell the Thessalonians, "This is exactly why, while with you, we commanded you: 'Anyone not willing to work shouldn’t get to eat!' You see, we are hearing that some folks in the community are out of step with our teaching; they are idle, not working, but really busy doing nothing—and yet still expect to be fed! If this is you or someone else in the community, we insist and urge you in the Lord Jesus the Anointed that you go to work quietly, earn your keep, put food on your own table, and supply your own necessities."(2 Thessalonians 3:10-12) The Scriptures are filled with the concept of people getting what they deserve. In fact, it's at the root of our need for salvation.

A just, righteous God who judges fairly--or equitably, to use the popular word--must by the very definition of those words give each of us what we deserve. And that's something that's made very plain as well: "The payoff for a life of sin is death," going back to Romans (6:23). What the Voice translates as "payoff" is something more commonly translated as "wages," but in either case the meaning is the same. We sin, and the righteous justice of a perfect God requires that we receive death as what we deserve for those sins. If we weren't deserving of death for our sins, we would have no need of a Savior. As it stands, we need someone to step in for us, to be the intercessor between us and the Judge. And because of the righteousness of the Judge, that Savior has to be perfect--which excludes any earthly form of government from the role.

So why is equality of opportunity so much more essential than equity of outcome, especially in society? That boils down to the fallen nature of people. If left to our own devices, most of us would much rather be lazy than productive. Most of us would much rather have things given to us than to have to work for them. That's the whole reason socialism doesn't work. The only way you can assure equity of outcome is if you take from the group that works and give it to the group that doesn't work.

That doesn't mean that we are excused from taking care of those who honestly can't take care of themselves--that's a task that has been given to God's people since the very beginning, and sadly it's something we've fallen woefully short on for almost as long. God has admonished His people for centuries for not taking care of the helpless. That, though, falls in line with equality, not equity.

Equality says we are all given the same chance to work; equity says we all get the same reward, even if we choose not to work. Equality says all people are treated the same under the law; equity says some groups get special treatment solely as a result of being part of that group... thereby legalizing--and often demanding--discrimination. When you give a certain group special favor, that's the very definition of partiality. And remember this verse?
"For there is no partiality with God."

 


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