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Pause for thought

Equity vs. Equality

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As I laid out in a previous column, every few years businesses and institutions feel compelled to implement the latest popular theme for productivity, management style or political correctness. 

The most recent of these pressures has been to form departments whose mission is to ensure that everyone has equal opportunity to participate, that all shades of opinion and belief are represented and no particular group is unfairly favored or discriminated against. Usually these departments, or teams, or task forces gather under the umbrella title of “DEI", standing for Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity.  Last time we looked at “Inclusivity”, this time I’d like to look at what the Bible says about “Equity”.

Although Equity and Equality are bandied about in everyday speech as if they are the same concept, in fact they are quite different (although obviously related). Last time I gave a high-level summary in the internet style of  “TL;DR” meaning: “too long, didn’t read” - so here is the salient TL;DR for this column: 

Every single human being, without exception or qualification, has potential, purpose and a plan in God’s economy. He decides what that is, we don’t!

Once again, I can make such a statement boldly because there are many scriptures to back it up. For example: 

The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;     he will judge the peoples with equity.  Psalm 96:10 NIV  A quick Google search will show that the concept of “equity” looms large in the writings of King David! Our society is hung up on “equality”, which means that each individual or group is given exactly the same resources, usually in the hope that this will result in equal outcomes for everyone. While well-meaning, this approach tends to move everyone towards the lowest common denominator of their potential without taking into account each individual’s strengths, capabilities or potential. If this approach worked as intended then we would provide the same resources to everyone so that they could play basketball at the same level as Michael Jordan or Steph Curry. As a vertically-challenged, uncoordinated, non-athlete I am a testament that such an attempt at equality is doomed to failure! Sometimes a distinction is made between equality of opportunity as opposed to equality of outcomes, and in my basketball example above that would mean that I would have the same opportunities and facilities to practice and play as Jordan or Curry. Unfortunately, in my case the end-result would be unchanged, because my body is not built for basketball, no matter how much I might wish it was! This brings us to the enhanced concept of equity, which is God’s way of dealing with us.  In God’s equity plan we actually do end up with equality of outcomes — neatly expressed in the first question of The Shorter Westminster Catechism:  “Q: What is man’s chief end? A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”  Thus God’s desire for all of us in creation is for us to show His glory while we live, and then enjoy eternity in His presence. But we know that God did not create us as homogenized puppets mechanically executing His will. Rather, He determined that it was worth the risk and trade-off to let us have free will and then choose to conform our will to His.  So where does equity come in? Even though we are created in the image of God, we are each unique in our humanity. God does not want us to be frustrated by our inabilities or disabilities or capabilities, so in His equity He provides resources tailored to each individual which will allow that individual to glorify Him and spend eternity with Him. It is equity which is specific, reckless, lavish, and boundless! How then does this concept of God’s equity — providing every person with tailored capabilities to show His glory — play into our lives? May I suggest we begin with humility: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  Romans 12:3 NIV

While it would be wrong to devalue our own worth, in the same way we should never denigrate the value of another who is the recipient of God’s equity.

I would also suggest that part of the genius in God’s planning is that sometimes He uses us to be the resource that another believer needs to achieve his/her full potential.

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me Matthew 25:40 NIV

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10 NIV

The whole idea of equity is to provide the tools, training and resources necessary to succeed in a planned task. If we are to incorporate equity into our worship then we have to be attuned to what is holding our brothers or sisters back from fulfilling their heavenly destiny. In business we often used to say that “managers carry water so people can work!”. Our worship should surely become a “living sacrifice”.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1 NIV

So as we seek to serve and worship, let us endeavor to incorporate “equity” as viewed from God’s perspective into our living, preferring that over mere “equality” which might look and feel good, but is not as effective as God’s equity!

Next time we will investigate the concept of “diversity”.

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

Saturday August 20th, 2022
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Friday August 5th, 2022
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