What is the biblical view of white privilege?

Question: "What is the biblical view of white privilege?"

White privilege is a sociological phenomenon in which people who are identified as white in some countries (primarily Western countries) experience more privileges and status than non-white people. White privilege has been described as “an invisible package of unearned assets.” They are unearned, because one who is born white is assumed to have them regardless of any personal skills or accomplishments.

Many deny that white privilege is a reality or argue that, if it seems to be a reality, it is not due to skin color but to the wealth, prosperity, and power that Western countries have amassed. Regardless, a person whose skin color is white is usually assumed to be from one of these nations of power and as such is given deference.

The reality or extent of white privilege is often a point of political contention. However, it cannot be denied that those in the underprivileged “Third World” often have darker skin.

The Bible does not address white privilege directly since the concept did not exist at the time. However, there have always been people of privilege and people who are in need. The Bible has a lot to say about this kind of situation.

First, there is no distinction in value before God based on race or skin color. In the New Testament, there was a Jewish privilege that had to be addressed. It was true that the Jews had been chosen by God for special blessing; however, all (Jews and Gentiles) have sinned and all can be freely justified by faith in Christ (Romans 3:23–24). Galatians 3:26–29 explains, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” If God accepts people based on their relationship to Christ, then believers must do the same regardless of color or wealth. People from every tribe, language, people, and nation will make up the Body of Christ on the final day (Revelation 7:9–10).

James 2:1–4 says, “My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

Second, the Bible teaches that those who have been blessed with material possessions should freely share with those who are in need. Those who occupy positions of privilege and power should not use their position to take advantage of others. The following verses make this clear:

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17–19).

“Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’” (Matthew 20:24–28).

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3–4).

Third, those who do experience great privileges should recognize that they receive many benefits that they did not earn. By the gracious act of God, they were born into a situation that allowed them to have their physical needs met and to advance their station in life. Their response should be thanksgiving and generosity. “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7).

Scripture readily admits that some people have advantages over others in this life. Those who have those advantages should not feel guilty about them but should use them to meet the needs of those who do not have those same advantages. There is no question that Christians in the “First World” have responsibilities to those in the “Third World” to provide physical and spiritual resources, and we will be held accountable for how we used what God has entrusted us with. “For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).

Recommended Resources: Bloodlines: Race, Cross, and the Christian by John Piper

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