What does the Bible say about equality?
Equality is a hot topic in society today: racial equality, gender equality, economic equality, political equality, social equality, and more. What does God has to say about equality? Let’s explore His multi-faceted teachings diverse types of equality.
Christian quotes about equality
“Throughout the millennia of human history, up until the past two decades or so, people took for granted that the differences between men and women were so obvious as to need no comment. They accepted the way things were. But our easy assumptions have been assailed and confused, we have lost our bearings in a fog of rhetoric about something called equality, so that I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having to belabor to educated people what was once perfectly obvious to the simplest peasant.” Elisabeth Elliot
“Although Father and Son are the same in essence and equally God, they function in different roles. By God’s own design, the Son submits to the Father’s headship. The Son’s role is by no means a lesser role; merely a different one. Christ is in no sense inferior to His Father, even though He willingly submits to the Father’s headship. The same is true in marriage. Wives are in no way inferior to husbands, even though God has assigned husbands and wives different roles. The two are one flesh. They are absolutely equal in essence. Although the woman takes the place of submission to the headship of man, God commands the man to recognize the essential equality of his wife and love her as his own body.” John MacArthur
“If there is equality it is in His love, not in us.” C.S. Lewis
What does the Bible say about inequality?
- God makes it clear that discrimination based on social or economic status is sin!
“My brothers and sisters, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and is dressed in bright clothes, and a poor man in dirty clothes also comes in, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the bright clothes, and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters: did God not choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man.
If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the Law as violators.” (James 2:1-10) (see also Job 34:19, Galatians 2:6)
- “There is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:11) The context of this verse is God’s impartial judgment for unrepentant sinners and glory, honor, and immortality for those who have the righteousness imputed to them by Christ through their faith in Him.
God’s impartiality extends salvation to people of every nation and race who place their faith in Jesus. (Acts 10:34-35, Romans 10:12)
God is the impartial Judge (Psalm 98:9, Ephesians 6:9, Colossians 3:25, 1 Peter 1:17)
God’s impartiality extends to justice for orphans, widows, and foreigners.
“For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who does not show partiality, nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow and shows His love for the stranger by giving him food and clothing. So, show your love for the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)
- “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
This verse doesn’t mean that ethnic, social, and gender differences have been obliterated, but that all people (who have accepted Jesus by faith) from each category are ONE in Christ. In Christ, all are His heirs and united with Him into one body. Grace doesn’t invalidate these distinctions but perfects them. Our identity in Christ is the most foundational aspect of our identity.
- “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the insignificant things of the world and the despised God has chosen.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28)
We don’t have to possess power, fame, or great intellectual strength for God to use us. God delights in taking “nobodies” and working through them so that the world can see His power at work. Take, for example, Peter and John, simple fishermen:
“When they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
1. Romans 2:11 “For God does not show favoritism.”
2. Deuteronomy 10:17 “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God, showing no partiality and accepting no bribe.”
3. Job 34:19 “who is not partial to princes and does not favor rich over poor? For they are all the work of His hands.”
4. Galatians 3:28 (KJV) “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
5. Proverbs 22:2 (NASB) “The rich and the poor have a common bond, The Lord is the Maker of them all.”
6. 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 (NIV) “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.”
7. Deuteronomy 10:17-19 (ESV) “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. 18 He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
8. Genesis 1:27 (ESV) “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
9. Colossians 3:25 “Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.”
10. Acts 10:34 “Then Peter began to speak: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism.”
11. 1 Peter 1:17 (NKJV) “And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.”
Men and women are equal in God’s eyes
Men and women are equal in God’s eyes because both are created in the image of God. “So, God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
Adam said of his wife Eve, “At last! This is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh!” (Genesis 2:23) In marriage, the man and woman become one (Genesis 2:24). In God’s eyes, they are of equal worth, although they are different physically and in their roles within the marriage.
In God’s eyes, men and women are equal in a spiritual sense: both are sinners (Romans 3:23), but salvation is equally available to both (Hebrews 5:9, Galatians 3:27-29). Both receive the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts to serve others (1 Peter 4:10, Acts 2:17), although roles within the church differ.
12. Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
13. Matthew 19:4 “Jesus answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female.”
14. Genesis 2:24 “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
15. Genesis 2:23 (ESV) “Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”
16. 1 Peter 3:7. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.”
The Bible and human equality
Since God created all humans in His image, all humans deserve equality in being treated with dignity and respect, even unborn humans. “Honor all people” (1 Peter 2:17).
Even though all people deserve dignity and honor, it doesn’t mean we ignore differences. Everyone is not the same – not biologically and not in many other ways. It’s rather like us with our children if we have more than one. We love them all equally (hopefully), but we delight in what makes them unique. God delights in making us different in gender, appearance, abilities, gifts, personalities, and many other ways. We can celebrate our differences while embracing equality.
There is an inherent danger in pressing for total equality in society when it moves beyond treating everyone fairly and forces “sameness” on everyone. Anyone with different opinions on religion, medical issues, politics, and ideology gets “canceled” and is considered dangerous to society. This is not equality; it’s the opposite.
The Bible teaches that human equality relates to showing kindness and defending the cause of the poor, needy, and oppressed (Deuteronomy 24:17, Proverbs 19:17, Psalm 10:18, 41:1, 72:2, 4, 12-14, 82:3, 103:6, 140:12, Isaiah 1:17, 23, James 1:27).
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
This includes what we can do for the downtrodden on a personal level, as well as corporately through the church, and through government (thus we need to advocate for just laws and just politicians that protect innocent children from abortion and provide for the disabled, needy, and oppressed).
We should make a point of developing friendships with people different from us: people of other races, other countries, people from other social and educational levels, disabled people, and even people from other faiths. Through friendships and discussions, we can better understand what these people are going through and help minister to their needs as God leads.
This is what the early church did – the believers were sharing everything they had, and some of the wealthier believers were selling land and possessions to help out the poor and needy (Acts 2:44-47, 4:32-37).
17. 1 Peter 2:17 “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.”
18. Deuteronomy 24:17 “Do not deprive the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge.”
19. Exodus 22:22 (NLT) “You must not exploit a widow or an orphan.”
20. Deuteronomy 10:18 “He executes justice for the fatherless and widow, and He loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing.”
21. Proverbs 19:17 “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.”
22. Psalm 10:18 “To do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, That the man of the earth may oppress no more.”
23. Psalm 82:3 “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; uphold the rights of the afflicted and oppressed.”
24. Proverbs 14:21 (ESV) “Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner, but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.”
25. Psalm 72:2 “May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice!”
A Biblical view of social classes
Social classes are essentially irrelevant to God. When Jesus walked the earth, one-third of his disciples (and His inner circle) were fishermen (working class). He chose a tax-collector (a wealthy outcaste), and we’re not told anything about the social class of the other disciples. As already stated in the beginning of this article, discrimination based on social class is a sin (James 2:1-10). Scripture also tells us that God has chosen the insignificant, the weak, and the despised (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).
In our personal relationships as Christians and in the church, social class shouldn’t matter. We shouldn’t give honor to the wealthy and overlook the poor or uneducated. We shouldn’t be social climbers:
“Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
On the other hand, we need to realize that it’s not a sin to be in a higher social class – or wealthy – but we need to be careful not to put our faith in transient things but in God and to use our financial means to bless others:
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him.” (Proverbs 14:31)
Slavery was common in Biblical times, and sometimes someone would become a Christian as an enslaved person, meaning they now had two masters: God and their human owner. Paul often gave specific instructions to enslaved people in his letters to the churches.
“Were you called as a slave? Do not let it concern you. But if you are also able to become free, take advantage of that. For the one who was called in the Lord as a slave, is the Lord’s freed person; likewise, the one who was called as free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought for a price; do not become slaves of people.” (1 Corinthians 7:21-23)
26. 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.”
27. 1 Timothy 6:9-10 “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap, and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
28. Proverbs 28:6 “A poor man who walks in his honor is better than a rich man who is sinful in his ways.”
29. Proverbs 31:8-9 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. 9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
30. James 2:5 “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?”
31. 1 Corinthians 7:21-23 “Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.”
Gender equality in the Bible
When we speak of gender equality, even from society’s perspective, it doesn’t mean denying that differences exist between males and females – obviously, they do. From society’s perspective, gender equality is the idea that both men and women should have the same legal rights and opportunities for education, work, advancement, etc.
Biblical gender equality does not equal egalitarianism, which is the doctrine that men and women have the same roles in the church and the marriage without any hierarchy. This doctrine ignores or twists key scriptures, and we’ll unpack that more later.
Biblical gender equality involves what we’ve already noted: both genders are of equal worth to God, with the same spiritual blessings of salvation, sanctification, etc. One gender is not inferior to the other; both are co-heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).
God has given men and women distinct roles in the church and marriage, but that does not mean gender inequality. For example, let’s think about the variety of roles involved in building a house. A carpenter would build the wooden structure, a plumber would install the pipes, an electrician would do the wiring, a painter would paint the walls, and so on. They work as a team, each with their specific jobs, but they are equally important and necessary.
32. 1 Corinthians 11:11 “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman.”
33. Colossians 3:19 “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”
34. Ephesians 5:21-22 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.”
The roles of men and women
Let’s first introduce the word “complementary.” It’s different from “complimenting,” although appreciating and affirming each other is wholly biblical and leads to happy marriages and fruitful ministries. The word complementary means “one completes the other” or “each enhances the qualities of the other.” God created men and women with distinct yet complementary abilities and roles in the marriage and in the church (Ephesians 5:21-33, 1 Timothy 2:12).
For instance, God created men and women with different bodies. Only women can give birth and breastfeed children – that’s a specific and wondrous role God gave women in the marriage, despite woke society calling them “birth parents.” Just like the electrician and the carpenter are both critically needed to build a house, both the husband and wife are necessary to build a family. Both men and women build a church, but each has distinct, equally-important, God-ordained roles.
The roles of the husband and father in the home include leadership (Ephesians 5:23), sacrificially loving his wife as Christ loves the church – nourishing and cherishing her (Ephesians 5:24-33), and honoring her (1 Peter 3:7). He brings the children up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4, Deuteronomy 6:6-7, Proverbs 22:7), providing for the family (1 Timothy 5:8), disciplining the children (Proverbs 3:11-12, 1 Timothy 3:4-5), showing compassion to the children (Psalm 103:13), and encouraging the children (1 Thessalonians 2:11-12).
The roles of the wife and mother in the home include placing herself under her husband as the church is under Christ (Ephesians 5:24), respecting her husband (Ephesians 5:33), and doing her husband good (Proverbs 31:12). She teaches the children (Proverbs 31:1, 26), works to provide for her household’s food and clothing (Proverbs 31:13-15, 19, 21-22), cares for the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:20), and supervises her household (Proverbs 30:27, 1 Timothy 5:14).
35. Ephesians 5:22-25 “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
36. Genesis 2:18 “And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
37. Ephesians 5:32-33 “This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
Equality in the church
- Ethnicity & social status: the early church was multiethnic, multinational (from the Middle East, Africa, and Europe), and from upper and lower social classes, including enslaved people. That was the context in which Paul wrote:
“Now I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
In God’s eyes, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or social status, everyone in the church should be united.
- Leadership: God does have specific gender guidelines for leadership in the church. The guidelines for an “overseer/elder” (a pastor or a “bishop” or regional superintendent; an elder with administrative and spiritual authority) stipulate he must be the husband of one wife (thus male), who manages his household well, and keeps his children under control with all dignity. (1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:1-9)
The Bible says women are not to teach or exercise authority over men in the church (1 Timothy 2:12); however, they can train and encourage younger women (Titus 2:4).
- Spiritual gifts: the Holy Spirit gives all believers at least one spiritual gift “for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-8). All believers are baptized into one body, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, and drink from the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). Although there are “greater gifts,” (1 Corinthians 12:31), all believers with their individual gifts are necessary to the body, so we can’t look down on any brother or sister as being unnecessary or lowly. (1 Corinthians 12:14-21) We operate as one body, suffering together and rejoicing together.
“On the contrary, it is much truer that the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those parts of the body which we consider less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor, and our less presentable parts become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable parts have no need of it.
But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that part which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same care for one another. And if one part of the body suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if a part is honored, all the parts rejoice with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-26)
38. 1 Corinthians 1:10 “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
39. 1 Corinthians 12:24-26 “while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
40. Ephesians 4:1-4 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call.”
How should Christians view marriage equality?
When we discuss marriage equality, we first have to define what marriage is in the eyes of God. Humans can’t redefine marriage. The Bible condemns homosexuality, which allows us to know that same-sex marriage is sinful. Marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Both the husband and wife are equal in value in their complementary roles, but the Bible is clear that the husband is the leader in the home. The wife is under the husband like the church is under Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:3, Ephesians 5:22-24, Genesis 3:16, Colossians 3:18)
God’s divine order within the home is not inequality. It doesn’t mean the wife is inferior. Headship does not imply a prideful, arrogant, aggressive, power-hungry attitude. Jesus’ headship is nothing like that. Jesus led by example, sacrificed Himself for the church, and wants the best for the church.
41. 1 Corinthians 11:3 “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”
42. Ephesians 5:25 “For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her.”
43. 1 Peter 3:7 “Husbands, in the same way, treat your wives with consideration as a delicate vessel, and with honor as fellow heirs of the gracious gift of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”
44. Genesis 2:24 English Standard Version 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
We are all sinners who need a Savior
All humans are equal in that we are all sinners who need a Savior. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) We all equally deserve the wages of sin, which is death. (Romans 6:23)
Fortunately, Jesus died to pay for the sins of all people. In His grace, He offers salvation to everyone. (Titus 2:11) He commands all people everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30) He wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4) He wants the Gospel preached to every person on earth. (Mark 16:15)
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. (Acts 2:21, Joel 2:32, Romans 10:13) He is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him. (Romans 10:12)
45. John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”
46. Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
47. Romans 5:12 “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.
48. Ecclesiastes 7:20 “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”
49. Romans 3:10 “as it is written: “There is no righteous person, not even one.”
50. John 1:12 “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
All people on earth are equal in that they are created in God’s image. All people are precious to God, and they should be precious to us. Jesus died for the world, so our first priority is to do everything we can to ensure that everyone in the world has the opportunity to hear the Gospel – that is our mandate – to be witnesses to the remotest part of the world. (Acts 1:8)
Everyone deserves an equal chance to hear the Gospel at least once, but unfortunately, everyone does not have that equal opportunity. In parts of Asia and the Middle East, some people have never once heard the Good News that Jesus died and rose again for them, and they can be saved.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)
Will you plead for workers to take the message of grace to those with unequal access to the Gospel? Will you support those who go to the ends of the earth? Will you go yourself?