PRIVILEGED, LUCKY, OR BLESSED?

Prompted by some recent news stories, I’ve been thinking lately about the idea of privilege and how it relates to me. When I looked up the definition of the word I realized I have been misusing it.

According to the first definition that came up in my search, privilege is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.” Most of my adult life I have been calling a variety of opportunities, relationships, and good things that I have experience privileges.

I have considered things like being married to my wife, being the father of a daughter and a son, being the grandpa of two grandsons, serving as a pastor in multiple ways for over 46 years, having the friends I have had and have, and much more as privileges. Most recently I officiated my son’s wedding and called that a privilege.

However, given the meaning of privilege in the definition above, none of the things I have been considering privileges have been such. I do not question or dispute that there are persons who indeed have benefitted from privilege in its primary definition and others have not.

If the good things in my life I have been calling privileges are not really that, what are they?

I’m uncomfortable to think or say that all these good things are nothing more than luck. The first internet definition for luck is “success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.” I wouldn’t disagree that some of the things that happen to us can be thought of in terms of good luck or bad luck, but it is more than that. Instead of luck many Christians use the word providence that is defined as the “protective care of God.” I believe in God’s providence in terms of the good things in life, but don’t have a satisfying answer for those who may ask about “bad luck.”

If I have to give up the idea of privilege, and don’t want to call it luck, I think the best choice is to say “I am blessed.” My favorite definition of a blessing received is “a favor or gift bestowed by God.” In all honesty I think Christians sometimes overuse the idea of blessed and blessing, but that’s really what I’m talking about in terms of many of the good things in my life.

I’m writing this reflection late on Saturday evening following the wedding of my son. I guess it was a privilege to officiate as a pastor in terms of the dictionary definition, but it was much more than that. Some may consider me lucky to have done this, and maybe I am; but the bottom line for me is that it was a wonderful blessing to do so and I was blessed by doing it.

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DIFFERENT THINGS TO DIFFERENT PEOPLE

Some readers will remember the song “Happiness Is” in which after citing a variety of specifics for select people, the chorus affirms it is “Different things to different people.” Our own experience no doubt confirms the truth of the song’s premise.

I’ve been thinking about another word (in addition to happiness) that also means different things to different people. And not just one word, but several.

What brought it to mind was my quoting of Bruce Metzger in my Bible class and a student’s suggestion that he was one of my favorite professors. As I left the classroom I thought, “What a privilege it was for me to take several classes with such a brilliant, well-known, and gracious New Testament scholar.”

The word, of course, that means different things to different people today is privilege. I looked up a dictionary definition of privilege and read that it was “a special right or advantage granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.” That wasn’t my definition as I was using the word.

Then I looked up the word lucky and read that among other thing it means “fortunate, favored, charmed, fluky, and accidental.” In terms of those choices, I would agree I was fortunate (lucky) to study under Bruce Metzger—I don’t think it was accidental.

The third word, and perhaps the best word, to describe my experience with Bruce Metzger is one of the words included in defining lucky: blessed. One dictionary definition of blessing is “a special favor, mercy, or benefit.” My favorite definition suggests a blessing is “a favor or gift bestowed by God.”

As I understand and use the words I don’t think I have been or am privileged, but I consider many of the opportunities and experiences I have enjoyed as privileges. I wouldn’t necessarily use the word lucky to describe these things, but neither would I be upset if someone suggested I have been lucky. If pushed to be precise in describing my life experiences I would say I have been richly blessed by God and enjoyed many blessings from him.

The words privilege, privileged, lucky, blessed, and blessings all mean different things to different people. The point is that we all have been on the receiving end in many ways, haven’t we?

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