“We hold these truths to be self-evident — that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” (The Declaration of Independence).
HUMAN BEINGS ARE MARVELOUSLY UNIQUE. The question is, where did all of this uniqueness come from? Are our intellect, emotions, free will, and other attributes merely the accidents of nature? Historically, many have believed that our unique traits are gifts — that is, we have been “endowed” with these characteristics by a Creator. We may not think much about it, but we hear the language of endowment nearly every day. Someone might say, “She is a gifted student.” Or someone else might say, “He has a natural gift for music.” This language expresses what we know to be true: many of the things we enjoy most in life are endowments. They are gifts.
Rights. If the framers of the Declaration of Independence were correct, we have been endowed with certain rights by our Creator. Some people may live in cultures where these rights are not respected, but all human beings have these rights nonetheless. They are endowments, given to every person at birth, and they should be respected. In addition, as a result of being created by a Creator, we have an unalienable human worth. The fact that every human being has inherent worth is a “given,” an endowment. “The worth of an individual is not ascribed by law . . . it’s endowed by the Creator” (James C. Dobson).
Abilities. Not only do we have rights and worth, we are endowed with amazing abilities and talents. Not a day goes by that we are not astonished to hear of some new thing that some human being has accomplished — and the abilities that make these achievements possible are all the more wondrous because they are gifts. Truly, we’ve been entrusted by our Creator with endowments of a high and noble nature.
When you stop to consider it, there is not much we enjoy in this world that is not a gift. Paul the Apostle asked the Corinthians a probing question when he asked, “What do you have that you did not receive?” This means that when we’re thinking clearly, we’ll be humbled by a profound sense of gratitude, and our gratitude will show up in a serious desire to be responsible stewards of our endowments.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use” (Galileo Galilei).