Universal Equality

Topic:   Equality Type:   Articles Author: J. C. Ryle

There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: and there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores [LUK 16:19, 20]

Observe how different are the conditions which God allots to different men. The Lord Jesus begins this passage by telling us of a rich man and a beggar. He says not a word in praise either of poverty or of riches. He describes the circumstances of a wealthy man and the circumstances of a poor man. He neither condemns the temporal position of one, nor praises that of the other.

We must be careful that we do not draw lessons from this account which it was never meant to teach. The rich are not always bad and do not always go to Hell. The poor are not always good and do not always go to Heaven. We must not rush into the extreme of supposing that it is sinful to be rich. We must not run away with the idea that there is anything wicked in the difference of condition here described and that God intended all men to be equal. There is nothing in our Lord's words to warrant any such conclusion. He simply describes things as they are often seen in the world and as we must expect to see them.

Universal equality is a very high-sounding expression. Many in every age have disturbed society by stirring up the poor against the rich and by preaching the popular doctrine that all men are equal. But so long as the world is under the present order of things this universal equality cannot be attained.

Some are wise and some are foolish--some strong and some weak--some healthy and some diseased--some lazy and some diligent--so long as children reap the fruit of their parents' misconduct--so long as sun and rain, and heat and cold, and wind and waves, and drought and blight, and storms and tempests are beyond man's control--so long there always will be some rich and some poor. All the manipulation of the economy in the world will never make the poor to cease out of the land [DEU 16:11].

Take all the property in the world by force this day and divide it equally among the inhabitants. Give every man above twenty years old an equal portion. Let all take share and share alike and begin the world over again. Do this and see where you would be at the end of fifty years. You would just find things as unequal as before. Some would have worked and some would have been idle. Some would have been always careless and some always scheming. Some would have sold and others would have bought. Some would have wasted and others would have saved. And the end would be that some would be rich and others poor.

Do not listen to those vain and foolish talkers who say that all men were meant to be equal. They might as well tell you that all men ought to be of the same height, weight, strength, and cleverness--or that all oak trees ought to be of the same shape and size--or that all blades of grass ought to be of the same length.

The cause of all the suffering you see around you is sin. Beware of expecting a millennium to be brought about by any method of government, by any system of education, or by any political party. Labor might and main to do good to all men. Pity your poorer neighbor and help every reasonable endeavor to increase knowledge, to promote morality, and to improve the temporal condition of the poor. But never, never forget that you live in a fallen world, that sin is all around you, and that the Devil is abroad. And be very sure that the rich man and Lazarus are emblems of two classes which will always be in the world until the Lord comes.

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This Page Last Updated: 12/09/98 A. Allison Lewis aalewis@christianbeliefs.org