In the world that God made, each man is judged and rewarded for his own actions (Romans 2:6). It’s this justice that gives rise to our desperate need and God’s gracious provision of mercy. The world, liking neither God’s justice nor His mercy, has sought to establish its own righteousness in the form of equity. Equality of outcome.
One of the problems with this is that when equality of outcome becomes the goal, it not only destroys freedom, it also becomes the unholy standard by which we measure all justice and morality.
And so, if Bill gets a pay rise or a spot in frontline military combat, and Betty doesn’t, we assume foul play. That something evil or immoral has happened.
There is a moral problem. But it’s not inequality, it’s envy.
Let’s take the concept of wealth as an example. Here’s a thought experiment I came across recently.
If you had a magic button in front of you which, if you pressed it, would result in all those in poverty being 10 times better off than they are now, but which also meant that the rich would also be 10 times better off, would you press the button?
Pressing the button would increase the inequality, but it would also genuinely decrease the real poverty of those currently in need.
The question is a litmus test for envy. If you would hesitate to hit the button then you’ve uncovered a central part of the problem—your own heart.
A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones. (Proverbs. 14:30)
Our envy over the prosperity of others runs in the veins. But since envy isn’t popular we’ve decided to redefine our envy as a problem of inequality. In other words, we use equality as a veil of compassion to cover up our envy, our greed.
But, as far as veils go, it’s pretty thin.
Say your great-great-grandmother kept a house slave for cooking and cleaning. Now, someone comes along, perhaps a descendant of that slave, and demands financial reparations for what they believe was a past injustice.
In order to provide the reparations to one group (who, keep in mind, were never slaves themselves), you have to take money from another group (who have never kept a slave).
When you provide financial benefits in the name of equality to one group who believes they have been oppressed, you have to oppress and destroy the freedom of another group by demanding that they pay for it.
But, since equality was never the true goal, who cares, right? As long as guilt can be monetised, then equality is nothing more than a blanket under which we can play out our greedy little game.
It also means that we cannot and will not extend mercy. To extend mercy, which is what the gospel does, would bring an end to the cashflow.
And so, we demand reparations for those who never actually experienced the injustice and neverending apologies from those who never committed the offence.
In other words, we demand ongoing guilt. Why? Because being a victim pays. So long as one man can attribute guilt to another he can continue to cash in on the shame.
The cry of inequality may make our envy look fashionable, even virtuous, but it also makes liberty, justice and mercy impossible.
And this is also why those in favour of earning money, or status, or whatever, on the guilt of others, can never accept the gospel.
It would mean debt forgiveness. It would put an end to the strife. It would mean the end of shame.
But shame pays and we are greedy.
James put it like this…
For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every vile practice. You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask God. (James 3:16; 4:2)
And why don’t we ask God? Because we don’t like the inequality that exists between a mortal man and an infinite God. We envy His seat. We want to measure out the justice, determine an acceptable sacrifice and withhold the mercy according to our greed.
But this is not a seat to be envied. It is a seat before which we bow down. The Lord’s seat is a Mercy Seat from which He judges all men as equal and calls all men to give an account—and from which He offers to graciously deliver and forgive all of us from our soul-ruining envy and crown us with mercy.