Life is not fair, and to quote a favorite Oscar Wilde character, “It’s a good thing for most of us that it isn’t.” Yet, there are many who desire to impose their own sense of fairness on the world. As Christians, we should understand better than everyone else that fairness is overrated. After all, grace isn’t fair. God is not a God of fairness; He is a God of justice. By grace, He created a way to satisfy justice so that we sinners might be saved. Is it fair that Jesus Christ bore our punishment? Is it fair that some will be saved and others condemned, when all have sinned? These are difficult questions. If we try to understand God through our human lens of fairness, we will have difficulty accepting Him for the God He is.
The definition of fair in my Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (yes, in actual book form) is quite extensive. Fairness can be used to mean justice or honesty. Yet, when someone says, “It’s not fair,” they are appealing to our sense of equity and rules, not strict justice. God has created us all with different skills and talents; He has made us with different personalities and preferences. What is perceived as fair to one person, is not seen that way by another. Fairness has this tendency to be subjective because of how different God has created us all to be. Our ideas of fairness are intrinsically flawed because of our humanity.
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. . .So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James 2:8-9, 12-13
I have always been very political in my thinking, and I added to this a degree in Government. So, to me, fairness is connected with political views that seek radical egalitarianism. I believe that God created us equally in that all human beings are created in the image of God and have innate value and rights. Yet, God has placed us all in different situations. Some live in third-world countries, barely subsisting. I write this blog from the comfort of my apartment in California, where I have more food, clothing, and amenities than some people will ever see in one place. I admit it: I am in the top 1% of the world. Is that fair? Without Scripture and guidance from God, it would be difficult to deal with the inherent unfairness of this world. Even so, there is much that I simply have to trust God about.
I did a search in the ESV Bible app on my Kindle for the word, fair. Five results were found. Three uses of the word fall under the alternate definitions of lovely or fine, and the fourth is a place-name. The fifth, found in Deuteronomy 25:15, regards the use of “full and fair” weights and measures. This verse commanded the Israelites to conduct business with honesty. My sense is that when we invoke fairness, it is not because we feel that we have short-changed someone else. Rather, we cry out when we feel cheated. Our self-centered humanity encourages us to feel slighted when others fail to do what we think they should. We are also concerned when we perceive that we can’t do the things that others “get away with.” Our obsession with fairness has a lot to do with getting what we want.
Micah 6:8 instructs us, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” God is requiring two things of us which may seem opposed to one another. Showing kindness, or mercy, may be the opposite of enforcing justice. It is the same way that God shows mercy to us by offering grace to cover our offenses. The heart of Micah 6:8 is that in what we do, we should be honest and fair, while,\ at the same time, we should show kindness toward others regardless of their actions toward us. In this sense, we should never be crying for fairness, but as Jesus loved His enemies, we should forebear with others, regardless of what seems equitable.
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other, also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
It would be fair to treat others as they treat us. But that is not what God calls us to do: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” As humans, we want to make others treat us how we want to be treated. We want everyone to live under the same rules. But, God wants us to love others regardless of what they choose to do. This is a difficult pill to swallow. I can only think that when I’m tempted to cry, “That’s not fair,” I should probably read The Sermon On The Mount. I can’t think of a passage of Scripture that would better help me to see the world as God wants me to, rather than through my human lens of fairness.