About this blog: Discussing religion, spirituality and values. About the writers: Amy Umble is the religion reporter for The Free Lance-Star. Janet Marshall is the religion editor for The Free Lance-Star.
Life isn’t always fair and neither is God
IF I HAD TO pick one phrase to describe how I felt about my elementary school years it would be “It’s not fair!”
“It’s not fair, It’s not fair, It’s not fair!” I would groan at the slightest bit of inequality between myself and those around me. My mother would respond, “Life isn’t fair. Get used to it.”
The roles are reversed now that I have my own children. They are quick to point out any perceived unfairness while I am the one who declares that life is not always going to be fair.
If we are honest with ourselves, we never outgrow our desire for fairness. We find out that the new guy at the office makes more money than those that have worked there for years and we are quick to label it as “unfair.”
We grumble inwardly about how unfair it is that our friend who had her baby six months ago is already in her pre-baby-weight clothes while we are still struggling to lose the pounds we gained during our last pregnancy—four years ago.
More seriously, we cry foul against God whenever we face difficult financial circumstances, serious health issues, the untimely death of a loved one or any other of the painful realities that come from living in a broken world.
I have come to realize that our longing for fairness is not something that we are taught, but rather something with which we are born. The root of this desire really stems from our own selfishness and pride.
In the end, though, our desire for fairness only causes bitterness, strife and discord.
Just the other day, I was making pancakes for my three daughters. One by one, they decided to help. What began as a lovely mother–daughter bonding experience quickly turned into a storm of raging emotions as they fought over who would put in the next ingredient.
Their desire wasn’t to help me. Their selfishness ended up making the activity miserable for all.
This notion of fairness doesn’t just raise its ugly head in families. It plays out in society at large. By giving each child a trophy just for participating or bringing presents for the siblings of the birthday child, we have created what has been called “the entitlement mentality generation.”
As Christians, we sometimes feel as though God is not fair in how He gives out salvation. We question the fairness of the murderer or the thief who comes to know Jesus at the very end of his wasted life. Why should they receive the same gift of grace as those of us who have faithfully served God all of our lives?
When we look at Scripture we see that the sense of everything being equal is not a biblical concept. God is just, but no where does it say that He is fair by our human definition of the word.
In Matthew 20:1–16, Jesus tells the story of a man who hired three different groups of men to work in his fields at different times throughout the same day. He offers to pay them all the same wage and each group agrees to the terms of payment.
When it is time to hand out the wages, the first group begins to grumble, “These who were hired last worked only one hour,” they said, “and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.” (Matthew 20:12)
The landowner answers, “I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?” (Matthew 20:13–16)
Incredibly, Jesus tells us that this story is a picture of the kingdom of heaven itself. Life may not always be fair, but we can take comfort in knowing that God is always loving and just.
The next time we feel our own inner child begin to stump her feet and shake her first in protest of the unfairness of this world, we would do well to remember the words of Job, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”
Heather Ablondi is a women’s ministry speaker and author who resides in Fredericksburg. You can contact her through her website, www.heatherablondi.com.