Privilege as Blessing

On Monday I read an interesting Her.meneutics post by one of our Tyndale authors, Caryn Rivadeneira. In the article, Caryn shares about a talk by model Cameron Russell about how her success is based on privilege–in her case, her beauty. You can watch her talk in its entirety here. In response to this, Caryn writes:

“Talking about success based on privilege is more than uncomfortable and complicated—it’s scandalous. We just don’t do that. At least, not us boot-strapping Americans. We want to talk about how hard we’ve worked, how many hours we put in, how much we sacrificed. Few of us are willing to talk about the level to which our success comes through natural gifts, our own legacies or ‘genetic lotteries.’ This is a shame, especially among Christians. To deny our privilege means we deny the gifts and blessings God has given us…Beyond that, when we ignore our own privilege, we fail to recognize that others don’t enjoy the same privilege. If we go on believing our success is all about us and our hard work, we can in turn believe that others don’t enjoy the same success merely because they are lazy.”

I agree that it often is privilege and not just our hard work that helps us succeed in life. When Gerald was looking for a teaching position last year people would always tell him it’s about who you know. It’s the connections you have within the school system that will help your resume get noticed in the midst of the hundreds of applications districts get for a single position. He got his current position not by knowing someone, but partly because he is a male elementary teacher. How can I make that assumption? Because the school was trying to decide between Gerald and another candidate for the position and both were men. Obviously the school was looking for more male teachers. Privilege at work.

This isn’t something we should be ashamed of. Like Caryn says, we need to see these privileges as blessings from God. After all, He is the One who made these things happen. When I read Caryn’s article, I just came of the 30 Hour Famine with my church’s youth group. This semester we’re going through the book of Ecclesiastes, which happens to be one of my favorite books of the Bible. As I read the article, I was reminded of one of the main points from the Bible study we did on Saturday during the Famine.

Ecclesiastes 3:9-14 says:

What does the worker gain from his toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him. {bold emphasis mine}


Mexican sunset in the Riveria Maya

Most of Ecclesiastes seems depressing, but there are these hopeful reminders like the verse I bolded above. The writer talks about how pointless it is to seek after wisdom, pleasure, and work because life is just a vapor. It’s gone after a moment. Then there are these positives where the writer reminds us that we should enjoy life because it is the gift of God. Ecclesiastes refers to what happens “under the sun,” apart from God. One of the main lessons we wanted the teens to remember last weekend is that your work, the things that bring you pleasure, and wisdom are all not meaningless if we remind ourselves that all those things are gifts from God. God wants us to work hard. He wants us to enjoy life and He wants us to be wise. We recognize that we don’t have control over what happens in our lives–only God does. I reminded the teens that we didn’t choose where to be born. They could’ve been born in a third world country and grown up not knowing when their next meal would come. We all could’ve been handed a different lot in life and yet we’re where we are because God placed us here. I don’t think that means God is heartless for placing certain people in difficult living situations and others in a life of privilege. It’s another reminder that we don’t understand where we fit into His great plan for the world. If we try to figure it out, it’s just “chasing after the wind.”

When we give up our desire to control our lives, we have the freedom to enjoy life. 

So it’s my hope and prayer that in all that I do, I do it knowing that God has given me gifts, talents, and the ability to enjoy His blessings and creation. It’s only right that I give glory and praise to the One who deserves it all.


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