We all know from experience how often good intentions lead to less-than-desired results. Nowhere is this proven true more often than with the promises and resulting policies of politicians. I do not want to question anyone’s heart even when some may seem suspect. Surely most are not intentionally trying to create a nation of dependents in order to maintain power, although there is much room to wonder.
There are only a few things government is established and designed to do. Governments will always prove to miserably fail when attempting to substitute their agencies and bureaucracies for what the private sector and individuals can do very well when inspired to focus on any need or challenge. Still, populations most often settle for the wrong approach, seriously complicating the problem and seldom solving anything. In the President’s State of the Union address this week, government was consistently presented as both the hope and source for almost every problem. Nothing could be further from the truth and the additional debt load and increasing tax burden will contribute to the destruction of our once great nation.
Unless people filled with love and proven answers are actively involved helping those in need, little, if any, progress will be made. There will never be a substitute for God or for loving our neighbors – period! We will never effectively help the poor and needy with mere handouts or checks from Uncle Sam. There is no meaningful help without inspiration, instruction, living examples, and training with emphasis on positive pursuits and personal responsibility. America has accepted many very expensive, failed substitutes. We must support people and programs that are known to work. One of the most damaging practices we continually witness is the attempt of politicians to produce equal outcomes for all citizens.
Our nation’s founders defined what they meant by “equality” when they said that we are all “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights.” The point they were trying to emphasize was equal rights under the law, not equal outcomes for every individual. And notice that the three rights they enumerated as examples were the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is not a guaranteed right, and even our right to pursue it implies some action and effort on our part. Any attempt, therefore, to legislate equality of outcomes or to impose a one-size-fits-all standard on society is misguided and simply will not work. It should be obvious that the differences between people and the unequal distribution of abilities, motivation and aptitudes make it unlikely that the playing field will ever truly be “leveled.” But that’s no excuse for people not achieving their maximum potential. As a nation, we should be doing everything we can to remove barriers that hold people back, but it will always be the responsibility of the individual to make the most of his or her opportunities.
I endured tough circumstances as a child, but I saw my situation as a challenge to overcome, not an excuse for not working hard to improve my situation. I did not wait for someone to take care of me, feel sorry for myself, or resent those who had what I did not. At age twelve I got a job paying way below minimum wage and started digging my way out. The gates of hell did not prevail! There will always be obstacles to freedom, success and advancement, but therein lies the challenge – and the opportunity. It is imperative that we understand equality is not sameness.
The New Testament says we are each uniquely created as “living stones” that God is using to build a spiritual house. The idea of stones suggests unique shapes, sizes, and colors, not uniformly shaped bricks – not sameness. We are also pictured as members of Christ’s body, the Church. Just as each member of our physical body, uniquely formed with great diversity, must come together in healthy connectedness in order to be built up into the fullness of the stature of Christ, we must submit to the head, the Lord Jesus, to fulfill His kingdom purpose. We must learn to recognize and appreciate the diversity and importance of each person, every member of the whole.
I am amazed at the wonder of God’s diverse creation. People are so different yet every one of us expresses the character of God in unique and defined ways. Diversity was God’s idea, which He incorporated into His creation of the earth and everything in it. And when we allow diversity to work for us, we can achieve unity in spite of our differences, we can tolerate distinctions in others, we can work together to accomplish what is good and right and true, and we can promote beauty, justice, and freedom.
When we as humans come along and try to make everything uniform – in our communities, denominations, political parties, and social movements – in a sense we’re “stacking bricks,” and in the process we overlook the distinctive beauty of what God created and intended for us. If we are to succeed – as a nation, a church, a community, or a family – we must recognize and respect our differences, learn to utilize our strengths, and overcome our weaknesses. Only when the “living stones” of our society learn to fit and function together will we be able to stay strong, coexist in peace, and fulfill the dream of freedom and opportunity.
What is the best way for those of us as citizens and Christians who have been blessed to effectively assist those who have legitimate needs in our community, our nation and the world? How do we go about ensuring equal protection under the law and equal opportunity for all? We need to start by confronting the prejudice in our own hearts and in those around us that would keep us from extending the privileges of equality to everyone. The institution of government cannot achieve this, but we the people can. When we see all of the opportunities afforded us in America, it should inspire in us a greater appreciation for our freedom and motivate us not only to dedicate our lives to guarding these privileges, but also to developing the underprivileged in every possible way. Jesus said, “Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” This by no means refers to anyone at any income level giving more money to support ineffective government efforts.
When those of us with greater privileges, greater advantages, greater resources, and greater opportunities offer the advantage of those resources to others less fortunate, in effect we extend equality to them. We need to do this in all areas. When we see others who are struggling and who have fewer opportunities for advancement, we ought to pour ourselves into trying to help them find more opportunity and achieve beyond their wildest dreams. Somewhere in our local communities, in our nation, and in the global community, we must unleash a spirit of harmony that says, “We’re in this together, and I must build you up to make us both strong; I must work to help you overcome the limitations that are holding you down.” Whether those limitations are due to poverty, prejudice, lack of opportunity, lack of education, or lack of resources, we must take responsibility for tearing down the walls of bondage and oppression. The federal government cannot do this. It is up to “we the people”.
Just because one person has a greater capacity for learning or a greater ability to succeed than someone else doesn’t diminish the value or importance of the one less gifted. In fact, if we would really pay attention to what Jesus said about the greater serving the lesser, we would see our advantages as opportunities to serve the less fortunate.
Jesus said that when we feed the hungry, offer a glass of water to someone who is thirsty, show hospitality to a stranger, clothe the needy, visit the sick and those in prison, it’s the same as if we had offered that food, water, clothing, hospitality, and compassion directly to Him. If people in the church would apply the principle of serving the less fortunate with the same zeal that they use to defend their theological positions, if churches competed to out serve each other instead of competing for new members, there wouldn’t be so many hungry, thirsty, homeless, suffering people in the world. There wouldn’t be such inequality in our society, because a service-oriented church with Spirit-filled believers would eradicate it.
True justice – the principle of right action in conformity to truth – is the model for how we can deal with poverty issues in our country. It’s the model for how we can deal with minority issues. Right action can only be sustained by right motives and dedication to Christ’s commission. We need to genuinely care about people who are in need – not as a political strategy to advance the agenda of our party, nor as a church-building strategy to get people to join our congregation, but because it’s the right thing to do. Loving God with all of our heart and loving our neighbors will always work!
 Luke 12:48