Is a Classless Society Really Possible?
JOHN ADAMS, who became the second president of the United States, was one of the signers of the historic Declaration of Independence, which included these noble words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Still, John Adams evidently had his doubts that people are really equal, for he wrote: “Inequality of Mind and Body are so established by God Almighty in his Constitution of Human Nature that no art or policy can ever plane them down to a level.” In contrast, British historian H. G. Wells was able to imagine an egalitarian society based on three things: a common but pure and undefiled world religion, universal education, and no armed forces.
So far, history has not produced the egalitarian society envisioned by Wells. Humans are far from equal, and class distinctions are still a predominant feature of society. Have such classes brought any benefits to society as a whole? No. Social class systems divide people, resulting in envy, hatred, heartache, and much bloodshed. The one-time white-supremacy mentality in Africa, Australia, and North America brought misery to nonwhites—including the total genocide of the Aborigines in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). In Europe, classifying the Jews as inferior was a prelude to the Holocaust. The great wealth of the aristocracy and the dissatisfaction among the lower and middle classes were factors that led to the French Revolution of the 18th century and to the Bolshevik Revolution in 20th-century Russia.
A wise man of the past wrote: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) His words are true whether those dominating are individuals or classes. When one group of people elevates itself over another, misery and suffering inevitably result.
Before God All Are Equal
Are some groups of humans inherently superior to other groups? Not in God’s eyes. The Bible says: “[God] made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth.” (Acts 17:26) Moreover, the Creator “has not shown partiality to princes and has not given more consideration to the noble one than to the lowly one, for all of them are the work of his hands.” (Job 34:19) All humans are related, and before God all are born equal.
Remember, too, that when a person dies, all pretensions that he is superior to others vanish. The ancient Egyptians did not believe that. When a Pharaoh died, they placed objects of great value in his tomb so that he could enjoy them as he continued to occupy his high position in an afterlife. Did he? No. Much of that wealth ended up in the hands of grave robbers, and many objects that escaped the robbers can today be seen in museums.
Since he was dead, the Pharaoh got no use at all out of those expensive objects. In death, there are no upper and no lower classes, no wealth and no poverty. The Bible states: “Wise men must die; stupid men, brutish men, all perish. For men are like oxen whose life cannot last, they are like cattle whose time is short.” (Psalm 49:10, 12, The New English Bible) Whether we are kings or slaves, these inspired words hold true for all of us: “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages . . . There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol, the place to which you are going.”—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10.
We are all born equal in God’s eyes, and we all end up equal in death. How futile, then, to promote one group of people over another during our short lifetime!
A Classless Society—How?
Still, is there any hope that some day there will be a society among the living where social class will not be important? Yes, there is. Almost 2,000 years ago when Jesus was on the earth, the groundwork was laid for such a society. Jesus gave his life as a ransom sacrifice for all believing mankind so that “everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
To show that none of his followers should elevate themselves above fellow believers, Jesus said: “You, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled.” (Matthew 23:8-12) In God’s eyes, all of Jesus’ true disciples are equal in the faith.
Did the early Christians view themselves as equal? Those who got the sense of Jesus’ teaching did. They viewed one another as equal in the faith and showed this by addressing one another as “brother.” (Philemon 1, 7, 20) Nobody was encouraged to view himself as being better than others. Consider, for example, the humble way in which Peter described himself in his second letter: “Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith, held in equal privilege with ours.” (2 Peter 1:1) Peter had personally been instructed by Jesus, and as an apostle, he held an important position of responsibility. Yet, he considered himself to be a slave and recognized that other Christians held the faith in equal privilege with him.
Some may say that the ideal of equality is contradicted by the fact that in pre-Christian times God made Israel his special nation. (Exodus 19:5, 6) They may claim that this is an example of racial superiority, but that is not so. It is true that the Israelites, as descendants of Abraham, enjoyed a special relationship with God and were used as the channel for divine revelations. (Romans 3:1, 2) But the purpose of this was not to put them on a pedestal. Rather, it was in order that ‘all nations would be blessed.’—Genesis 22:18; Galatians 3:8.
It turned out that most Israelites did not imitate the faith of their forefather Abraham. They were unfaithful and rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Because of that, God rejected them. (Matthew 21:43) However, the meek among mankind did not lose out on the promised blessings. At Pentecost 33 C.E., the Christian congregation was born. This organization of Christians who were anointed by holy spirit was called “the Israel of God,” and it proved to be the channel through which those blessings would come.—Galatians 6:16.
Some members of that congregation needed educating in the matter of equality. For example, the disciple James counseled those who were treating wealthy Christians with more honor than poorer ones. (James 2:1-4) That was wrong. The apostle Paul showed that Gentile Christians were in no way inferior to Jewish Christians, and female Christians were in no way inferior to males. He wrote: “You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus.”—Galatians 3:26-28.
A Classless People Today
Jehovah’s Witnesses today try to live according to Scriptural principles. They recognize that social classes have no meaning in the eyes of God. Thus, they have no clergy/laity division, and they are not segregated according to skin color or wealth. Although some of them may be wealthy, they do not focus on “the showy display of one’s means of life,” for they realize that such things are only transitory. (1 John 2:15-17) Rather, all are united by their worship of the Universal Sovereign, Jehovah God.
Every one of them accepts the responsibility to share in the work of preaching the good news of the Kingdom to his or her fellowman. Like Jesus, they honor the downtrodden and neglected by visiting them in their homes, offering to teach them God’s Word. Those with a humble status in life work side by side with those who may be viewed by some as upper class. It is spiritual qualities that count, not social class. As in the first century, all are brothers and sisters in the faith.
Equality Allows for Variety
Of course, equality does not mean total uniformity. Men and women, old and young, are all represented in this Christian organization that includes people from many, many racial, linguistic, national, and economic backgrounds. As individuals, they have different mental and physical abilities. But those differences do not make some superior or others inferior. Rather, such differences result in a delightful variety. Those Christians recognize that any talents they have are gifts from God and are no reason for feelings of superiority.
Class divisions are a result of man’s trying to govern himself instead of following God’s guidance. Soon, God’s Kingdom will take over the day-to-day rulership of this earth, and the result will be an end to man-made class distinctions, along with all other things that have caused suffering through the ages. Then, in a real sense, ‘the meek will inherit the earth.’ (Psalm 37:11) All reasons for boasting about one’s supposed superiority will be gone. Never again will social classes be allowed to divide the worldwide brotherhood of man.
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The Creator “has not given more consideration to the noble one than to the lowly one, for all of them are the work of his hands.”—Job 34:19.
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Jehovah’s Witnesses show honor to their neighbors
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It is spiritual qualities that count among true Christians