The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” What does it mean that all men are created equal? More importantly, is it true that all men are created equal?
As I understand it, America’s founding fathers were declaring that every person has equal natural worth because he is created by God in the image of God. This principle of equal worth is why the founders went on to declare that governments exist to protect every one’s life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. All men are created equal in the sense that all have the same infinite value. Every person, regardless of gender, race, nationality, ability or economic background is equal. Every person is a reflection of the image of God and bears an inestimable worth.
In more recent times some have understood this phrase to mean every person has the same potential or should have the same opportunity. This interpretation does not line up with Biblical teaching or even with common sense. Physically and mentally none are created equal. Very few have the height, strength or coordination to become a professional athlete, and even fewer have the ability to become superstars. Very few have the understanding, recall and quickness to become a world renowned scientists. An Einstein only comes along every so often. The decades old statement of American freedom and potential, “you too could become president some die” flies in the face of reality. Very few have the drive, political savvy and charisma needed to become a successful politician, much less to become the President. As it says in the other classic American statement, “You’re unique, just like everyone else.”
In Biblical terms, God clearly draws a distinction between people. While all men and women are of equal value before God, God gave them differing abilities and different roles within the marriage relationship. God selected Abraham out of all the people of the world and set him apart to do something remarkable for Him. Abraham held an unequal role in the world. His descendants, the nation of israel, were a special group of people different from all the rest of the nations of the world. They were not equal. Out of Israel God selected men to be judges, prophets and kings. These ones were, in function, not equal with the rest of the nation. God said there was none like unto Moses. In the New Testament Jesus declared, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist:” Even in terms of accountability before God, God does not view all as equal. Those who have been entrusted with more will have a greater accountability. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required:” Pastors must give account for the spiritual well being of those in the church (Hebrews 13:17). At God’s throne of judgment, the punishment of the unsaved will be meted out based upon their works. (Revelation 20:12)
In value all people equal. This equality does not imply it is unfair for some to succeed while others fail, nor does it necessarily require a full “equal opportunity” to all. Because all men are equally image bearers of God, we must do all we can to protect the life and dignity of all.