How many times have you heard, “that’s not fair!” as a parent? It’s the mantra of every kid. Yet, truer words have never been spoken.
The reality is that God is not a fair God. We, on the other hand, expect fair. We’ve been trained all our lives, since we’re kids, to expect fair. Fairness is the belief that everyone gets an equal share, that everyone has a level playing field, or even that this is how it is supposed to be.
When ice cream is dished out in bowls, and our scoop is smaller than our sister’s, we immediately complain that it’s not fair. Fairness reveals the brokenness of our hearts. Instead of operating from a heart of gratitude that sees anything given that’s not paid for as a gift (and even the means to pay for things as a gift), fairness comes from a heart of entitlement–I am owed or deserve the thing I’m given, and I am being wronged because it has somehow been deprived me.
When a kid cries out, “that’s not fair,” when they don’t get as much ice cream as his sibling, we sagely respond, “life’s not fair.” Yet we don’t really operate as if we believe that, do we? When life happens in ways we believe are unfair, like when Chick-Fil-A gets kicked out of the San Antonio airport, not because the organization is discriminatory, but because its owners believe what God’s Word says about marriage and sex, we immediately cry out how unfair things are (As an aside, Chick Fil A always inspires me with the idea that, as a Christian, if you will just be so very good at what you do, people can try to keep you down all they want and you will still be a powerful influence-a great lesson for our kids). We still cling to fairness, still think the playing field should be level for everyone, that everyone should get an equal stake. And, if we were totally honest, “equal” and “fair” really means just a little more than the guy next to me, just a little bit of an edge. You never cried foul when your sister got less ice cream than you, did you?
There’s nothing about life that is fair. We don’t even serve a fair God, not in the way we think about it. Nothing in Scripture suggests God is fair, or that we’re always going to get a fair shake, or that my deck will be stacked slightly higher than the guy next to me because I’m a follower of Jesus. On the contrary, the Parable of the Talents, the story of the Rich Young Ruler, the Prodigal Son, the Parable of the Dishonest Manager, the story of Job, the lives of Paul and the apostles, and just about every other story and character in the Bible stand for the proposition that life is inherently unfair. It’s actually we who are delusional to think otherwise.
What God is, though, is just. As redeemed followers of Jesus, we live in the peace of knowing we serve a just God. Just is way better than fair. In an unfair world, just tells us that God will someday make everything right, restore everything to the perfect way He created it. He will make all things new. Even now, He’s given us each other, His Church, to work to make things as they should be: to heal broken relationships, to care for our brothers and sisters in need, to encourage the discouraged, to pray for and heal the sick, to educate the ignorant, and to bring the words of life and truth where there is only death. We have a God who will not let the guilty ultimately go unpunished, which should terrify us as much as it comforts. We know as His children, we will also be called to account, or judged, for how well we cared for each other.
As life is hard and patently unfair and broken, we really don’t actually even want fair or even. We want good. We want noble. We want right. We deeply want and need truth to win out over lies and evil and pettiness and wrongness in the end. This is the iron-clad promise of our just God. This is our hope. I’m glad life’s not fair.