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To Whom Much is Given, Much is Required

My friend Mark Wingfield recently ended an excellent article with that verse (Luke 12:48b). The article, written in the aftermath of the tragic shooting of Terrence Crutcher by a Tulsa Police officer, addresses the issue of privilege. In this context, of course, the focus is on white privilege, but, as Mark notes in his article, privilege is alive and well in our society in many forms: male privilege, educational privilege, urban privilege, socioeconomic privilege, neighborhood privilege, adult privilege, and on and on. Indeed, each and every one of us has benefitted, far more than we realize, from our privileged statuses.  

Now, as Mark notes, too many of us deny our privilege, which is a problem in and of itself. But for those of us who have acknowledged our privilege, there’s another pressing question: What will we do with that privilege? The natural tendency, of course, is to use it to our personal benefit.

Mark then offers up a brilliant example.  Mark lives in Dallas and often flies Southwest Airlines. If you’ve ever flown Southwest, you know that there are no assigned seats, but for a small fee, you can get “boarding privileges” which allow you to go on first and, more or less, pick out your seat: aisle, window, close to the front. whatever you prefer. And that’s exactly what we do with such privilege.  We use it to get what we prefer.  No one pays the $30 and says, “I’ll sit by the bathroom so I can take the brunt of the smell for everyone else.”  Nope. In Southwest Airline seating, privilege means my needs get met, even at the expense of your needs not being met.

The same is true elsewhere in life too. Whatever privilege or edge we have we use to our benefit. Why, we would be stupid not to. Right?  If you’re struggling to answer, that’s OK.  I’m having trouble writing these lines, because, well…because privilege and how we use it tends to reveal our selfishness.   Maybe, suggests Mark, that’s why we struggle to admit we are privileged, because to do so reveals our inherent self-interest.
But Jesus suggests we do something else with our privilege.  He suggests we use it to benefit others.  He suggests we use our health to go the extra mile and bring healing to others, our inclusion to bring in the excluded, our wealth to benefit the poor, our freedom to benefit the imprisoned and exiled, our voice to speak up for those who have no voice. 

What if we voted for what would be in the best interest of others and all, and not ourselves and our tribe? What if when we invested our money, we cared not just about our return, but how those investments affected the most vulnerable around us? What if we used our education not just to further our careers, but to help others learn basic skills?

And in our most pressing present context…What if those of us who are white chose not to get defensive of our privilege, but instead to get honest about it; and then listen and learn; and then join all of those of color, especially our black brothers and sisters, in speaking for and working for racial equality and justice for all?
Oh, we can use our privilege for other purposes. We can use it to build our kingdom. But when we use our privilege for the sake of others, Jesus says, we are capable of joining Him in building something far bigger and far better, the Kingdom of God.  And so, it is precisely to ones such as us, that Jesus now and forever says, “To whom much is given, much is required.”

Grace, David


This article was written by Rev. Dr. David Breckenridge and originally published in the October edition of Together.

Posted by Bridget Ellis at 9:00 AM
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