Summary: God is not fair in the way he deals with us. For that we can be thankful. Instead of being fair, he shows us mercy and grace.
“The Unfairness of God”
June 20, 2004
When was the last time you felt like you were treated unfairly? When did you last think, “That’s not fair”? It doesn’t matter what it was about, it could have been anything. You just simply felt that whatever it was that happened, it wasn’t fair to you.
Like most people we’re very concerned about fairness. If we’re going to be on the receiving end, we want it–whatever it is–to be fair.
How many of you have ever heard a child say, “It’s not fair”? Think back for a moment to when you were a kid. About what kinds of things did you holler, “NO FAIR!”? It was probably stuff like who had more ice cream in their bowl. Who got to pick which T.V. show to watch. Who had to do more (or fewer) chores. When you had to take a bath. Whether you got play or had to do your homework. Who got to stay up later on a school night. You know, stuff like that.
The reality is, as children, when we’re talking about fairness, we’re talking about things being equitable. Like we said earlier, we don’t want the other person to have more than we do. We want an equal share: the same amount of ice cream, the same number of cookies, the same size piece of cake, the same bed time, the same number of chores, and so on.
I heard a story about two siblings: brother and sister, who squabbled over how many slices of pizza each one got to eat. The older child was bigger and had a big appetite. Not surprisingly, this child was able to eat several slices of pizza at dinner, while the younger child was unable to eat as much.
Apparently at one particular meal, several comments were made about how much pizza the older child was able to eat. “Wow, you sure can eat some pizza.” “Where do you put all of it? You must have a hollow leg.” Well, that raised the ire of the younger sibling and she cried, “It’s not fair he can eat more pizza than me.” So not to be out done–and of course, in the interest of fairness–the younger child did her best to eat as much pizza and her big brother had eaten.
Later that night the little sister went to her mother and said, “Mom, my tummy hurts.” The mother questioned, “Why does your stomach hurt, sweetie?” “Because he ate more pizza than me.” “Because he ate more pizza than you? How does that make your tummy hurt?” The child responded, “Well . . . because I wanted to eat as much as he did. It wasn’t fair that he could eat more than me.” “So it’s his fault my stomach hurts. And that’s not fair.”
Interestingly, things don’t seem to change that much when we become adults. Even as adults many of us are still caught up in the struggle for what’s fair. It’s not fair that she got that promotion at work. It’s not fair that he drives a nicer car, or that they live in a nicer house, or have a better job. It’s not fair that she’s prettier than me, or he’s thinner than I am, and so forth.
Our desire for fairness expresses its self in other ways too. Take for example when you’re stopped by a policeman. Not that that’s ever happened to me . . . Why are you looking at me like that? Don’t you believe me? . . . . .
So anyway, when YOU get stopped by the police . . . for speeding or rolling through a stop sign or not wearing your seatbelt, or whatever . . . after the initial anxiety of being pulled over, one of our first thoughts is, “This isn’t fair.” “Why am I being pulled over?”
Then, of course, we try to justify why it isn’t fair that we got stopped. We tend to talk to ourselves, pointing out the infractions of others: “Oh sure. Look at that guy. What about him, he’s speeding.” Or, “Look at her weaving in out of traffic.” “Hey, he didn’t use his turn signal.” For the next few days, we’re hyper-vigilant watching every other driver and wondering where the cops are when all those people are breaking the law. Right? Uh huh.
On the other hand, when we see someone else pulled over we may think, “Yeah, it’s about time. Serves ‘em right. They’re getting what they deserve.”
Why is that when something like that happens to us, it’s not fair? BUT, when the same thing happens to someone else, we call it justice?
You see, the reality is, that’s the way we’re made up. We’re taught from a very early age what’s fair and what’s not fair. We like fair, we don’t like what’s not fair. So, in the interest of fairness, we’re bound and determined to make sure that we get what’s coming to us. We’re reluctant to settle for anything less than what’s fair.