Probably when you saw the title of this post, you thought of what started out as “white privilege,” but now has been shortened to just “privilege.” It is a word that has several meanings, but is used mostly now with only one: “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor.” While I have no disagreements with the discussion in our society currently about certain people benefitting from privileges based on their birth circumstances—certainly there are—but with this emphasis something has been lost in one legitimate meaning of this word—honor.
So much of the current use of the word focuses on how I am benefitted by circumstances or how others are; what has been lost is the emphasis on the privilege of honoring others. I was thinking about this the other morning while preparing my wife’s coffee. She is not, as I am, an early riser, so as I am preparing my coffee, I also prepare hers. Like many South Africans, she prefers instant coffee in the morning, so I pull a mug from our cupboard and fill it half-way with milk. It sits there until she awakens and comes down to our kitchen. I do this every morning, and I thought last week what a privilege it is to do that—to serve my wife in this way.
There are so many privileges in life, if we only pause long enough to consider them. For me, it is a privilege to pray for others, as I wrote about a while back. It is a privilege to enjoy the many gifts the Lord has given me, such as being able to watch the birds at our feeder, to gaze into the heavens at night or early in the morning to see the stars or the moon, to climb to a point in the mountains nearby to gain views of a lovely vista, and to meet with college students to help guide them into a full life with Jesus. What a privilege to honor God in this way.
My wife considers it a privilege to give gifts. She loves gift-giving and is blessed to honor others in this manner. Another dear friend loves to send cards for birthdays and anniversaries, and we are always on her list, being blessed by every card that arrives in the mail. There are others who are honored to give money; we have been blessed by many friends in this way over the years, and we, too, have been blessed to honor others in same way.
I find it interesting that the New Testament Church was one full of privileged people. Here are two passages from Acts that highlight this:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them allthat there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the salesand put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. (Acts 4:32-35)
The Church was full of people with money and position, who would be termed “privileged” today, and there were people in need. Yet, the needy people didn’t stay needy for long, because the ones with means took it upon themselves to share their wealth with the others. It isn’t difficult to believe they considered it a privilege to do so.
Today, we believers would be wise to follow their example. We should consider ourselves privileged to honor others, from supplying needs to giving encouragement in a variety of ways. (An examination of Paul’s letters will show how much he valued encouraging others.)
If we find ourselves living what the culture would generally refer to as privileged lives, let us consider how we may honor others by that which the Lord has honored us. It is a privilege to do so; I am reminded of that every day.
© Jim Musser 2021 All Scripture references are from the New International Version, 2011.