Summary: We run into problems when we try to impose our definitions of fairness on God.
A Study of the Book of Luke
Sermon # 17
When Life Is Just Not Fair.
Do you remember when you were young what your mom always said as you went outside to join the neighborhood kids in some kind of organized game, “Now you remember to play fair.” Yet when you approach this same parent in your teen years to complain about something being unfair what did they say, “Well you better learn right now young man that life is not always fair.”
Are they being inconsistent? No not really. One of the rites of passage into adulthood is the realization that life is not always fair. Yet we are still offended by life’s unfairness. For reasons that we do not understand “Bad things do happen to good people” and perhaps even more inexplicable is sometimes “Good things happen to bad people.”
We run into real problems when we try to impose our definitions of fairness on God. When God’s actions or lack of actions do not meet our expectations. Our national constitution states “all men are created equal.” And while it is true that all humans are created equal in God’s sight and have equal rights and protection under the law, all men are not created equal. I think that we all realize that we are not born with the same opportunities. Nor are we are not all equal in abilities and giftedness. Bro. George and I grew up with a young man who was one of those extraordinarily blessed individuals. This young was smart, good looking, he could sing, play the piano, was black belt in Karate and now has Phd. in Marine Biology. And the worse part was that he was so stinking humble you could not even hate him. Is that fair that some people have one talent and others have several? Yes it is fair, but not necessarily by our standards.
1. God Does Not Have To Work By Our Expectations (v.18)
In verse eighteen we read that John’s disciples brought him news about the miraculous things that Jesus was doing.
“Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things.”
It should be remembered that John’s disciples are bringing him the news because he is locked away in prison. John was in prison for having the audacity to confront the king over his marriage to Herodias. Herod, the king, is married to woman who was at one point was his sister-in-law. For courage in speaking out he was confined to the dungeon of a palace (Machaerus) overlooking the Dead Sea, a more desolate formidable place is difficult to imagine. In all fairness this must have been an extraordinarily difficult experience for a man accustomed to the outdoors as John the Baptist was.
It is possible that John’s disciples brought him news of Jesus’ latest miracle, the raising of the dead young man in Nain back to life (7:13-17). Languishing in prison, John became increasingly perplexed by the reports he heard of Jesus’ ministry because it was not all what he had imagined that the Messiah would do. John was only doing what we all do. We have a scenario in our mind for those in our lives. We have fixed ideas of how others are going to behave.
We sometimes expect God to do something in a certain way, and if he does not, we think that God has failed us. Such expectations cover a variety of situations – from God helping us to get a certain job, to God healing us of a debilitating medical condition, to our expectations that the Christian life will be free of hardship.
Sometimes we look around and we at least think to ourselves, “God, this is not fair.” You are not treating me right. Even a man as great as John the Baptist wrestled with confusion about whether or not God was treating him right. The value of his struggle should not be missed.
2. Honest Doubt Is Not A Sin (v.19)
No only was he perplexed by what Jesus was doing, he was even more perplexed at what he was not doing. Why was Jesus helping others and leaving John to rot in a dark and miserable dungeon. After all he was the one who had announced that Jesus was “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29). He had been faithful in carrying out the ministry given to him, how could God allow him to remain in prison? I don’t think that John no longer believed in Jesus, but he did have questions about the style of his ministry and the content of his message.
John was a great man, but not a perfect man. We have before us the darkest days in the life of John the Baptist. According to verse nineteen, disappointed and puzzled John sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" John did not hide his doubts and fears. We only begin to conquer our doubts when we acknowledge them.