As a child, “that’s not fair!” was my theme song. My sister and I used to fight, terribly. She used her words, I used my hands; I always got in trouble, she never did. Well, she may have, but I was too busy seeing red to see anything else.
Justice, by definition, is “the administering of deserved punishment or reward.” We all want that but as Scar from the Lion King said (and I love to quote to my children), “Life’s not fair”. If fair means “free from bias or injustice; proper under the rules”, it’s possible my childish opinion was a little off. Whose rules did I want followed?
Many Bible stories have felt unfair to me. Off the top of my head (no pun intended): John the Baptist was beheaded as a party favor for nothing more than speaking unwelcomed truth; Uzzah was killed by God for touching the ark in an attempt to catch it from falling; Uriah, one of the King’s faithful soldiers, was killed in the line of duty to cover up David’s sin; and Joseph was sold into slavery because of his jealous siblings. Then, of course, there’s the parable in Matthew 20 – a picture of God’s kingdom – where laborers who were hired very early in the day received the same wage as workers hired in the last hour. They were highly offended to be considered equal when, as they reminded the landowner, they deserved more.
Let’s take a closer look at these injustices. Keep in mind, we won’t always get satisfying answers this side of heaven. For instance, John’s death – still not fair. Uzzah, on the other hand, disobeyed God. The Lord gave specific instructions for transporting His holy ark which, had they been followed, would’ve prevented this “death by good deed”. As for Uriah, he put his job before his wife. I’ve lived that pain. Not saying he deserved to die, but if he had just spent time with Bathsheba on his day off, David wouldn’t have felt trapped into sending those fatal marching orders. Joseph’s trials, as awful as they were, at least had a grand purpose we can see – many lives were saved. But the best answer for all of these cases, by far, is the landowners reply to the laborers, found in Matthew 20:13-16: ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’
An old hymn declares, “This is my Father’s World; He shines in all that’s fair”. His creation, His beauty – but we don’t always reflect God. The Bible commands “love your neighbor as yourself” because loving ourselves comes all too naturally. When we don’t obey this rule, people get hurt, and as the saying goes, “hurt people hurt people”. Often, we’re quick to snap “there’s a special place in hell” for certain offenders, but I think this is where we lose sight of truth, forgetting our own crimes, the offense to God and the high cost of sin. Way back in Genesis, we see the heart of man is “only evil continually”, further described as: “evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” (Mark 7:21-22)Since we can’t go a day without sinning and blood has always been the price of sin, hell would be fair; it’s the natural destination. But when Christ shed his blood on the cross, He paid the sin debt in full, once for all. Talk about injustice for Jesus! Yet He proved it a great exchange for us. Heaven is reserved for hearts regenerated through Christ. Rest assured, no one will sneak in. By our free will and God’s standards, justice will be served. But… if the vilest offender truly does have a change of heart, does he not deserve the same mercy you and I received?
Bob Goff said, “Grace doesn’t seem fair until you need some.” Do you struggle with that? I can’t help but think of the prodigal’s angry brother. He felt mistreated because his father threw a party for the black sheep returning home, while he (the “good son”) got nothing. He overlooked the fact that the Father’s relationship and riches were his all along! When tempted to determine our brother’s worth, we’d be wise to remember – we’re all prodigals.
I admit, “that’s not fair!” is a catchy tune, but as we grow in the Lord, let’s embrace a new theme song with the truth of these lyrics – “Though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet”. After all, it’s His world. Trust the Father to distribute discipline and rewards. You just might find, as I did with my sister, that battle has become one of your biggest blessings. But during those times when all you can see is red, let it be the blood at the cross. Remember that exchange and be thankful life’s not fair!