The world God made, and the human race he created as part of it, are both chock full of inequality. It is supposed to be this way. The inequality throughout creation isn’t an evil, far from it. Rather, it is the beauty, and the glory of God manifest in creation. The inequality within creation echos the inequality of creator and creation. By the very act of creating, God made that which was inferior to himself. Inequality started “in the beginning.”
And it didn’t end there. Not only are creator and creature unequal, but there is dramatic inequality throughout creation. The heaven is higher than the earth. The sun is greater than the moon. Man, alone, of all creatures on earth, was made in the image of God, and all the Earth was placed at his feet.
When God created all this inequality, he saw that it was good, and behold, very good.
If all was equal, where would be the splendor? Where would we find the mighty river and the quiet stream? Where would we find the humble cottage, or the splendid palace? Where would we find the one born king of the Jews, or care for the least of his brethren? When would we see the servant who rises to rule, or the shepherd who became a king? If every mountain were as high as any other mountain, and indeed, no higher than the barest plain, where would our souls seek the heights of Zion? Where would the mountain goats climb? If the toddler were as strong and tall as his father, who would we watch grow? If all were equal, where would the weak seek refuge? Or who would strike down the proud? What name would God give his son, if not that name which is above every name?
There is only one thing that frets and chafes at inequality, and that one thing is envy. But envy can’t offer us a better world, only a worse one. Since God made a world of inequality, we should tell our envy to shush. We like the inequality.
We are in awe when David faces Goliath. We thrill when God chooses the weak. We shudder when the mighty fall. We applaud when the diligent rule, and marvel at the wisdom of Solomon, and the strength of Samson. We cheer the champion. And the champion we cheer most is the Creator himself. For David hurled the stone, but it was God who hurled David into combat, and toppled the mighty giant.
O, tell me of the child who came to greatness; tell me of the king reduced to ruin! Tell me of the mustard seed that grows to fill the whole earth. These are not stories of equality.
What of the wicked servant who hid his talent in the dirt? What of the sinner’s riches laid up for the just? What became of the nations of whom it was said “you are not my people?” What of those who sat in darkness, in the shadow of death, did they ever see a light?
And was it a great light?
Equality is a pale and flavorless substitute for the high drama and the sheer glory of the world that God created. Only the bitterness of envy could make the blandness of wall-to-wall equality seem sweet by comparison. But let me tell what stirs within the human heart at the stories of reversal found throughout the bible.
When we read of the childless couple whose descendants became a great nation, or how God delivered the many into the hands of the few, we are not reading stories of equality, but rather of the most dramatic inequality. When God ordains strength out of the mouth of babes or brings to nought the wisdom of the wise, he isn’t making them equal. It is true that he is overturning the inequality of the status quo, but is he instituting an equality? No, it is instead a new inequality. But this is only the beginning.
For it is written,“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” Galatians 4:27
These dramatic reversals reveal the greatest inequality of all, that between creator and creation. God’s pinky finger is stronger than all the nations of the world combined. His wisdom so far exceeds man that our greatest scientists are fools by comparison. He shows off by reversing the course of nature. When he tips the scales, equality is the furthest thing from view. When God reveals his wisdom to babes or uses the weak to overthrow the strong, the point is not that the little ones are actually strong. The point is that God’s greatness so far exceeds the power of the strong that they are nothing in comparison to him. The point is that we must submit to God and reverence him or else all our strength is weakness and all our wisdom is folly.
Rather than satisfying the envious heart by making all things equal, these stories are the greatest imaginable provocation, the greatest antagonism against pride and envy. God reverses the natural order of things to make his point. Just as he showed his power by turning back the shadow on the sundial, he shows his wisdom by humiliating the wise, and shows his strength by defeating the strong.
You are encouraged by the scriptures to take heart and be wise. Be glad with whatever position God has given you. Has he elevated you above your fellows? Give thanks and be humble before him. Use your position responsibly, in the fear of God. Or has he made you weaker than average? Give thanks for what you have and rejoice in the grace he shows to the weak and poor.