We Need To Be Aware Of The Perils Of Privilege

Sunday of Week 3 in Lent

Luke 13:1-9

A tragic story about a group of believers who were slaughtered by Roman soldiers begins today's Gospel reading. It appears that the people who reported this story to Jesus believed that the victims were punished for their sins and got what they deserved. This prompted Him to give a stern warning, “Unless you repent you will all perish as they did.”

He then told them a story of a fig tree that produced nothing and the owner of the vineyard ordered it to be cut down. The gardener pleaded for the tree to be given one more year. He himself would give it special treatment. Then, if it produced nothing, he would cut it down. Here we see Jesus wanting to give all of us another chance to change. He, the Gardener, wants us to be fruitful in good works.

Jesus addressed this parable to everyone, but especially to the leaders of Israel. They were privileged people, given every opportunity to make something good and useful of their lives, but they had completely misunderstood their position. They had seen it not only as a sign of divine favour but also their due. It was this attitude that prompted Jesus to warn them about the perils of privilege.

In our materialistic society, we tend to think of privilege in terms of money - but there is more to it that. Growing up in a good home is a privilege. To receive a good education is a privilege. To enjoy political freedom is a privilege. To have a healthy body and sound mind are privileges. In one way or another, we are all privileged people and we need to hear the warning of Jesus about the perils of privilege.

The people in our reading considered themselves more fortunate than those who were slaughtered but looked upon themselves as more deserving people. From our privileged positions we may fail to see life in its proper perspective.

We look at our material possessions and compare ourselves with those who have little or nothing and draw the conclusion that we are more industrious. We look at our formal education and compare ourselves with those who have little or none and assume that we are more intelligent.

Somehow it does not occur to us that the main reason for our success is that we had better opportunities. In almost every instance, a fortunate circumstance can be traced back to a privileged position, but we fail to see that. We can think of ourselves as special people who deserve all the favours that we enjoy. This is one of the perils of privilege.

A result of this is that we can fail to feel the pain of those who are less fortunate. It is said that a full stomach does not know an empty one and so they never worry about those who starve. One of the things we should pray for every day is an observant eye for those who are less well off than ourselves and to be caring about their plight.

We should be grateful for what we have and then try to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Sin is not only something bad that we do. It is also something good that we fail to do. We might be surprised to discover how much that theme is part of Jesus' thinking.

The whole point of today’s Gospel is that we must learn to care. Consciously and deliberately we must be giving, loving and sharing people. When Jesus spoke about fruitful living, I don’t think He meant doing big and impressive things. We are all capable of small unselfish deeds that help to make other people’s lives a little easier. All that it needs is an observant eye and a caring heart.

Lord Jesus, help us have an observant eye and a caring heart, especially towards those people less fortunate than we are.