December 11, 2009

Dec. 11: Privileges get in the way


By Hannah D. Miller, a senior peace, justice and conflict studies major from Scottdale, Pa.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 3:7-18 (NRSV) Scroll down for complete Scripture.

Do not assume you have privilege because of your ancestry, John says in the beginning of the Luke 3: 7-18 passage. Jesus is coming to turn structures of privilege on their heads.

In fact, John tells the people that they should exchange their self-righteous privilege practices for the complete opposite, giving what they have to the poor. “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” (v. 11) There is someone coming, John repeats, who will create a different kind of kingdom!

This passage resonates with many of us today. There continue to be structures of privilege in our world, whether it is religion, race, sex, class, orientation or a plethora of others. John’s message and the teachings of Jesus remind us not that these privileges do not matter, but rather that we must recognize them and work towards creating structures that Jesus advocates. There is no simple answer to recognizing the structures of oppression and privilege and overcoming them, but recognizing them within community and amongst each other is important and a first step.

Jesus calls us (through John in this passage) to give our extra cloak, treat everyone fairly, share our food and deal justly with the other. The reign of the Messiah is here and therefore we should be living lives that reflect the calling of Jesus. What the world tells us are privileges get in the way of true community in Christ with each other.
SCRIPTURE: Luke 3:7-18 (NRSV)

John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor”; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.’

And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, ‘I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.’

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.



Comments (4)

  1. Hannah, Your thoughts speak so strongly to me at this time of job losses and economic uncertainty plunging the once secure into unforeseen struggles–a gospel wake up call that we need each other and are truly to be each other’s brothers and sisters in faith and deed–all of us, no matter how we seem to differ in status, privilege and orientation. Thank you.

    marjorie larney December 11, 2009 |
  2. Greetings Hannah from Laurelville. Appreciate very much your comments. These Biblical “principles of privilege and blessing” continue to challenge me as I serve as a leader this place of mission and ministry. I would welcome chatting over a cup of coffee /water sometime. Blessings, john

    John H. Denlinger December 11, 2009 |
  3. Thank you, Hannah!

    “What the world tells us ARE privileges get in the way of true community in Christ with each other.”
    I think the verb should be IS in your last sentence.

    Marilyn Moffett December 11, 2009 |
  4. I adore how this reflection reminded me not only of all I have, but validated my determination and rightness in sharing all I have been blessed with, with others. Thank you. God Bless

    Linnaya December 13, 2009 |