November 02, 2020

The Establishment

 Devotion for the Week...

There's a lot of talk these days about privilege. Privilege, as it's meant in this context, is the advantage given to a person in society because of things outside their control. It has nothing to do with their achievements, skills or personality. We don't earn privilege, it's simply granted to us because we fit into certain categories. I used to think privilege meant the same as being rich, but wealth is only one kind of privilege, albeit a very noticeable one. 

The type of privilege most talked about these days, of course, is white privilege. White privilege is hard for white people to see because it just feels normal and we think that everyone experiences life the way we do. It was a shock to me to read an essay written by a black man who won't go for a run in his neighborhood without his wife and who won't walk his large dog in his neighborhood without his daughter. His wife and daughter, he said, lend him respectability and make it so he is not perceived as a threat by people who see him running or with a big dog. My husband, my father, my brother and my sons will never have to consider whether or not they might be perceived as a threat while walking or running down the road. It was also shocking to me to read about black parents needing to teach their children how to act around police so they don't appear threatening. I was taught that the police would always help me if I need them, not that I had to be cautious of my demeanor around them.

Privilege is nothing new, of course. It has existed for as long as people have been separating themselves into different groups. Once a group has some advantage over another group, it will fight hard to keep whatever privilege it has. We see that today as people try to deny that white privilege is a real thing and we can see it in the Bible as the religious leaders fought against Jesus' teachings.

The Pharisees are said to have "dearly loved their money" (Luke 16:14) and "loved human praise more than the praise of God" (John 12:43). They were the establishment and they felt threatened by Jesus, especially by His popularity with the people. They were also offended by His teachings, as His disciples pointed out in Matthew 15:12.

Jesus openly accused them of being hypocrites (see Matthew 23) and told His disciples to "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matthew 16:6), which the disciples eventually understood to mean "the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (v. 12). With teachings like that, He threatened their special position in society and eventually "the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus" (Mark 3:6). 

The question for us to consider is: is there someone, either a person or a group, who makes us angry/defensive/offended because they're doing things differently? If the answer is yes, it would be a good idea to take time to consider why we're so upset. Is it because what they're doing is genuinely harmful in some way? Or is it because we are part of the establishment in this situation and they're threatening our position?
The Pharisees are more cautionary tale than role models |
Background quilt is Between the Stars
The Pharisees are more cautionary tale than role model. If we find ourselves threatened by someone who is new and different, maybe we should try being open to change rather than fighting to maintain the status quo.


  1. You've given me a lot to think about... We are SO fortunate to live where we live, but our world is changing - and some of the things are pretty scary and have come a little too close to home. Praying for wisdom!


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