What Jesus said about White privilege isn’t what you hear from professors, politicians, and many pastors today. Jesus doesn’t command White people to check their privilege, he commands them to count their blessings. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? We’ve buried our heads so deeply in the sand to bow to the golden calf of our time that we do not recognize that what the world calls privilege, the word of God calls blessing.
My White neighbour is richer than I am, like most White people. He doesn’t live paycheck to paycheck like I do, like most Black people. He was born into a better environment than I was, like most White people. I’ve experienced more barriers to success than he has, like most Black people. My White neighbour is more privileged than I am, and professors, politicians, and even pastors, want me to envy him.
White privilege is a popular concept today because White people are encouraged to congratulate themselves for pitying their Black neighbours. White privilege is a popular concept today because the culture encourages Black people to embrace self-pity, bitterness, covetousness, and envy—and it turns Black people green for White people.
My neighbour and I share the same rights, but not the same privileges, and that’s okay. Our rights come from the government, our privileges come from God. My White neighbour is more privileged than I am because God gave him more unearned advantages than he gave me. My neighbour is more privileged than I am because he’s more blessed than I am.
If White people today were more privileged than Black people because of racial injustice, that would be an entirely different story. But my government is not secretly plotting my demise. I do not believe Justin Trudeau—and Donald Trump for Black Americans—is clever enough to pull that off, anyway. I do not believe in conspiracy theories. My White neighbours’ blessings come from God, not the government.
White privilege is a Marxist concept developed by feminist writer Peggy McIntosh in her 1988 article, Male Privilege and White Privilege. It’s a silly oversimplification at best and racist at worst. White people who believe in White privilege affirm much of the same things White racists do, except they feel guilty about it. White privilege essentially suggests that Black people are inferior to White people. It suggests that if only Black people were granted special provisions by the government, then maybe we might stand on equal footing with White people. It’s the soft bigotry of low expectations, and they congratulate themselves for it. And perhaps that is why many of them use racial slurs like “coon” and “Uncle Tom” against me.
I read Peggy McIntosh’s article for the third time earlier this week, and I was reminded of a quote from economist Henry Hanzlitt:
“The whole gospel of Karl Marx can be summed up in a single sentence: Hate the man who is better off than you are. Never under any circumstances admit that his success may be due to his own efforts, to the productive contribution he has made to the whole community. Always attribute his success to the exploitation, the cheating, the more or less open robbery of others. Never under any circumstances admit that your own failure may be owing to your own weakness, or that the failure of anyone else may be due to his own defects.”
I’ll go further: the gospel of Karl Marx tempts you to hate the God who makes someone better off than you are. And that is the danger of White privilege. It encourages self-pity, bitterness, covetousness, envy, and worse—hopelessness in God.
That finally brings me to what Jesus said about White privilege. Remember what Jesus said in the Parable of the Talents? The parable teaches that a master entrusted his property to three of his slaves before leaving for a journey. Jesus said “to one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” When the master returned, the slaves with five talents and two talents had doubled their money into ten talents and four talents, respectively. However, the slave with one talent wasn’t profitable. He wasn’t a good steward and he blamed it on his master’s character, not his own. So the master rewarded the slaves who doubled their talents and punished him.
That parable is primarily about something much more important than privilege. Nevertheless, there are some important lessons about privilege to learn from the parable. God gives some people five talents, and others two and one. If my White neighbour, like most White people, is more privileged than I am—if my White neighbour has five talents, and I have just two. That’s okay. I am not called to match my neighbour’s privileges. I am called to make the most of what God has given me. Especially when God gives some people less privileges than I have. If my neighbour has five talents, and I have two, others have just one. And God, the giver of all good gifts, calls us all to make the most of what he gives us.
I may not have my neighbour’s material blessings, but in Christ, I have every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Actually, I am much more privileged than my White neighbour.