Equality seeks a subjective outcome without regard to the truth. In other words, equality is outcome-based whereas equity is truth-based. When it comes to justice, Scripture teaches that we are to judge with equity in mind, not equality. That principle is underscored in John 7:24, where Jesus says, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
1 Kings 3:16-27 provides an excellent example of the biblical distinction between equality and equity. One woman wanted equality whereas the other woman wanted equity. King Solomon judged with equity, not equality, which meant that one of the women went home without a baby.
Biblical justice is a matter of equity, not equality.
Yes, there is a difference—and it’s not an insignificant one.
The word ‘equity’ first appears in Scripture in Psalm 9:8 where the psalmist, speaking of God, writes, “And He will judge the world in righteousness; He will execute judgment for the peoples with equity” (NASB). The word ‘equity’ is the Hebrew noun “meyshar” (מֵישָׁר). It is an architectural term that denotes straightness, level, evenness, smoothness, uprighteness. In other words, the word “meyshar” means to judge with a straight line, with no defects, irregularities, or deformities.
There are those today within evangelical Christianity, particularly in America, who are preaching a gospel of equality when what they should be preaching is a gospel of equity. Equality meant that the baby in the aforementioned passage would have been killed and divided in two. But equity seeks to objectively determine what is true and right and, consequently, to render just decisions solely on the basis of what was objectively determined to be true and right, regardless of outcomes.
On the other hand, equality seeks a subjective outcome without regard to the truth. In other words, equality is outcome-based whereas equity is truth-based. When it comes to justice, Scripture teaches that we are to judge with equity in mind, not equality. That principle is underscored in John 7:24, where Jesus says, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” King Solomon abided by that principle. He did not judge according to appearance but with righteous judgment, which meant that one of those two women would leave his presence disappointed.
Biblically speaking, equity—or truth—is the standard regardless of the outcome. Believers should never conflate equity and equality. They are two different concepts. According to Scripture, the question is never “What is fair?” but “What is equitable?” “Fair” (or “equality”) would have been King Solomon killing the child and dividing it in two. That would have appeased one of the women, and yet it would not have been the equitable thing to do as far as the other woman was concerned. King Solomon knew this. What motivated him to judge in favor of one woman and not the other was the biblical standard of equity, not the worldly standard of equality, and that is what we all should want—equity—regardless of the outcome.
Remember also that the woman who was comfortable dividing the baby in half was also a liar. My point is this: in God’s economy, equity (objective truth) matters more than equality (subjective outcome). No, an equitable outcome is not always the reality in this world. Then, again, we should never expect perfect justice in a world that lies in the power of the devil (see 1 John 5:19). Nevertheless, among believers in Christ, equity is the biblical standard, not equality.
“Then you will discern righteousness and justice and EQUITY and every good course.” — Proverbs 2:9 (NASB)