I am among the most privileged persons who have ever lived. Of course, that depends on one’s point-of-view. Before being a believer in Jesus/Yeshua, I also realized my privilege, and I had nothing to do with it. I did not choose to be who or what I was, and am.
I was born to two Jewish parents. That is to say, I was born among the Chosen People of the God whom we were taught was the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, and who chose the descendants of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob to be His special peculiar people. We had a history and a lineage that others did not particularly have. We also suffered social anti-Semitism for being Jews, “Christ killers”. Most of this came at the hands and mouths of WASPs – White Anglo-Saxon Protestants – the most privileged among the privileged in our society. And among the Jewish groups, I am Ashkenazi of Eastern European extraction.
I was born in the United States of America at a time of her ascendance among the world powers. The U.S.A. was founded upon Jewish-Christian ideals and principles, the most moral and just among the nations and their constitutions. Her freedoms and material prosperity were the envy of the other nations. The Old Testament was our Book, which Christians claimed that their Book was based upon. But somehow their God and our God were not the same, in the way that they told me.
I was born white, and in the South. In fact, I was born in the capital of the Confederate States, Richmond, Virginia, which was one of the original 13 colonies established by the British government before the Revolutionary War. Our schools growing up were all segregated back in the ‘50’s and early- to mid-60’s. I was glad that the North won the Civil War, which is still regarded as THE War in the South.
And lest I forget, I was born a boy, a male, with all the privileges which that brings, or, at least, used to. And, as an added privilege, English is my mother tongue — a great advantage in many ways.
With all this “privilege”, I also realized came some responsibility for what others might think about who I represented: Jews, Americans, White people. I remember meeting someone in South Carolina on a school break from my university in Georgia. I was shocked that she had never met a Jew before! And I realized that whatever she thought of me was going to affect what she thought about my people. She certainly had heard about us, but had never met one of us. Whenever we heard of some Jew who is honored, we felt good about ourselves as a people group. Whenever some prominent Jew was involved in things that he ought not – or in trying to like the WASPs — we were embarrassed or ashamed, and worried about it provoking anti-Semitic attitudes closer to home.
When Israel miraculously won the Six-Day War in 1967, all of the Jews were proud to be Jews, and many went to at least visit Israel, the State of the Jewish people. Today, depending on whether one finds favor with Israel or not, their identity and pride as Jews is impacted. Israel represents us, whether we like it or not.
When I traveled around Europe by train between my junior and senior years of university, I met some Aussies doing the same. At one point they told me that they had assumed that I was Canadian, and not [U.S.] American. I asked them why. They said that they had never met a nice American before! There was the expression that I knew – the ugly American – and sadly, with our privileges, we acted presumptuously and pompously oftentimes, which brought a bad name to them, and to the rest of us. That was basically my impression of WASPs, too.
Being White in the South, from a middle-class (maybe upper middle-class; I don’t know the boundaries), we had “Colored” maids as we grew up. (The Northerners had white maids.) To me, they were almost part of the family. My father had “Colored” employees in his hardware store, with whom we had good relationships, and ate together at lunch. I knew that whatever they thought about my family, or about my father and me, these “Black” people were going to be judging us “White” people. We never used the N word; it was always a dirty word not to be used or approved of.
My status as a privileged person was enhanced (again, depending on one’s point-of-view) when I was saved and born-again by repenting and believing the truth of who Jesus Christ is, becoming a Messianic or Christian by following and belonging to the Messiah/Christ. I was now not only part of the uniquely chosen people as a Jew, but also now chosen to have my sins forgiven and to inherit eternal life with the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob – the God of Israel. Now I represented not only myself, or my family, or my people, or my nation, but also the name of my Lord and Savior. With this, I realized that I truly represented the name of YHVH, the God who chose the Jewish people to be His people; the God who really is the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, and the Redeemer of not only Jews, but also of the Gentiles. And I may be living in the generation that will see the second coming of Jesus Christ!
My privileged status was enhanced even more when the Lord told me to go to Israel – to go home on Earth. I had been to Israel twice as an unbeliever: the first time as a tourist, as part of my travels in Europe back in 1971; the second time as a volunteer on a kibbutz in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Israel was important to me, but not home. Jesus/Yeshua made it home. I say that He had mercy on me, since twice I had preferred the U.S. over Israel as being home. In His great mercy and forgiveness, He changed my heart and mind without any misgivings. (And, praise God, He did the same for my non-Jewish wife! We immigrated together.)
Having all of these privileges makes me, in my opinion, the most accountable person on the face of the Earth. It is not a sin to be privileged. Neither did it save me. To whom much is given, more is required. None of my privilege is based upon any of my works. I have done zero to have these privileges. I have not earned them; I did not choose them. But I am responsible for what I do with them. I will be judged as a believer more severely than believers of lesser “endowments”. I am not entitled to anything better than someone else in God’s sight because of what and where I was born, or even where I live now. The pride of life is a great sin, along with the lust of the eyes and of the flesh.
We can trace some of the disparities in life, and of the sovereign wisdom of YHVH God, in the prophecy of Noah after The Flood, when he spoke concerning his sons (and a grandson): Ham, through Canaan, were recipients of a curse; YHVH of Shem was blessed (notice that it was not Shem, but the God of Shem, who was blessed); and Japheth was promised enlargement relative to his brothers. People may not like these prophecies, but history bears them out. The Word of God abides, no matter whether we approve or not.
Those who have been victims of those who are privileged have a grievance, but they do not have any entitlement to make themselves as if they are the privileged. They will do the same, or worse, than those whom they resent have done. Sin is deceptive and powerful.
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” As one judges, he will be judged; and by the measure which one judges, he will be so judged.
Believers in the grace and mercy of God which we have received by repentance and faith in the gospel are more accountable for what and how we deal with injustice. It is not unjust to be born with privilege; it is not unjust to be born without. God’s judgments are past finding out! It is not a sin to be born a Jew, or an Arab; to be born White, or “of color”; to be born male, or female. It is sin to be racist in either direction; it is sin to be anti-semitic; it is a sin to be disrespectful of others, to treat them in a manner that you would not want to be. Sin has perverted equal judgment under the law; yet there can be privileges for those who are citizens, or members of the household, over those who are not. Only God is good; and Yeshua/Jesus is the Righteous One and Humble Servant. Only in His name is their salvation, who came to call sinners to repentance and faith in His name.
Depending on one’s point-of-view, I am either very blessed, or else the scum-of-the-earth.
So with the privileged Apostle Paul, né Saul, I can say (filling in my own particulars) :
“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!