Pastor Freed used this quote from Albert Einstein this morning in his Jack’s Winning Ways blog –
“Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.” (Albert Einstein)
Reading that quote brought to mind this oft used line from Luke 12:48 – “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.”
But it was in further researching the idea of privilege and responsibility that I found this quote –
“I was taught that the world had a lot of problems; that I could struggle and change them; that intellectual and material gifts brought the privilege and responsibility of sharing with others less fortunate; and that service is the rent each of us pays for living – the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time or after you have reached your personal goals.” – Marian Wright Edelman
I like Edelman’s vision that serving others is the “rent” that we pay for being alive, for we are all “renters” of life here on earth. Acts of empathy and concern, as well as taking action to serve the needs of others is the rent that we pay for that time here. There will always be rent scofflaws, those who are so self-centered that they dismiss the needs of others – they skip out on their rent. Theirs is not a happy life here in earth, even though many appear to be successful. In their constant pursuit of more – money, power, possessions -they seldom feel the fulfilling joy of accomplishment that those who serve others feel in their successes.
Marian Edelman says she “was taught” her values. She does not say by whom. One can assume that she got those values from her parents, her teachers and her church. Perhaps she read Luke growing up or listened to sermons about caring and sharing. No matter how she learned, she came to the correct conclusion that those responsibilities that went along with the privileges that she enjoyed were also her purpose in life.
Many people go through life without consciously thinking about what their purpose in life is. They focus on things like meeting their immediate needs or perhaps on racking up accomplishments and garnering honors. However, to what purpose? Collecting more and more money or possessions is not a purpose. It is interesting that many people who achieved incredible wealth finally found their purpose in giving that wealth away to help others – think Bill Gates, for instance. Others, like Mother Theresa, never accumulated wealth and possessions but lived most of their lives with great purpose by helping others.
One does not have to be a Bill Gates or a Mother Theresa to be aware of their privileges and God’s gifts in their life and be dedicated to a purpose of sharing with and helping others. Nor is that sharing and helping limited to giving money. One’s time is really the most valuable possession of all and dedicating some of that time towards helping others, by volunteering at organizations like Meal on Wheels or Community Sharing Centers, is a greater gift than just throwing some money in a collection bucket.
Most of us have enjoyed the rewards of privilege, and now our rent is due. What are you doing to pay your rent?