Life’s not fair!
But who told you it would be?
Maybe it’s better this way?
Life’s not fair!
Not exactly a news flash, is it?
Everyone knows that.
And we can all go on and on about why it isn’t fair. Especially why it isn’t fair to us.
And, we probably throw in something about God not being fair to us. Maybe even that He abandoned us. Or that He doesn’t really exist.
But first, this one’s a bit special.
I was responding to someone’s post last night who was questioning God. Very much along the lines of Him not being fair. Actually – more like being cruel. I’ll post a link, if it’s OK with the author. (I really hope you, the author, do come over and read this.)
Anyway – after exchanging a couple replies, I included this –
I’m working on a post to that effect now – probably will be ready tomorrow. Maybe He prompted me to write it today – just for you? How would that make you feel? I am quite sure He’s put people I my life when I needed them. What if your post was prompted by Him to get this all started? Coincidence, or God trying to reach you?
As some of you know, I’m slowly moving my old site over here in the midst of adding new stuff. Yesterday afternoon, I really did feel led to update this particular one – Life’s not fair! Didn’t have time to finish it, so I figured I’d do it today. Then last night, I came across the other post and responded. And now we’re here.
For those of you reading this who are Christians, I’d like to ask you to pray for this person.
So – here it is. The original was written in May 2012.
As usual, updates will be in rust colored italics.
Of course,what I’m looking for tonight is what does the Bible say about life being fair.
The first instance can be found in the Prologue to Proverbs:
Prologue: Purpose and Theme
Pr 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
Pr 1:2 for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight;
Pr 1:3 for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair;
Pr 1:4 for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—
Pr 1:5 let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—
Pr 1:6 for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise.
Pr 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
OK – there’s the key word – fair –
but after a couple other words –
doing what is right and just and fair
So it seems that the concept of fairness can’t be removed from “right” and “just”. And that makes sense. All of these words imply some sense of values. Fairness can’t really be evaluated without also looking at what is right or wrong. It also cannot be evaluated without some concept of justice: rewards for doing right; penalties for doing wrong. All of life is based on this. The problem is – all too often, the one with the most power get’s to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Not to mention that justice is in the eye of the beholder. And reality doesn’t always have anything to do with what’s conceived of as being right, just, or fair.
Now – it’s also true that with God – He has the power. He also decides what’s right, just, and fair. The difference, and this is where faith comes in, is that His concepts of these three terms are pure. We have trouble with that. We’re used to either being victimized by “justice”, or being able to circumvent “justice”, depending on who we are and how much power and authority we hold over others. That all goes away with God. We will never be able to circumvent His justice. Now the question becomes – is that a good thing?
With that in mind, let’s keep going – maybe it’ll get “better”.
The next instance is still in Proverbs –
Pr 2:9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path.
Pr 2:10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Pr 2:11 Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.
In the first set of verses, we saw that they weren’t about fairness to us, but rather about us being right and just and fair to others.
This one tells us that we can understand what is right and just and fair. Not that we will understand it. Because if we choose to ignore God and / or what He says – we will never understand it. Not that we weren’t told. We just chose to ignore it.
Nice. We can understand, but we still don’t have anything about life actually being fair to us.
Oh well. Let’s keep going. Maybe the next set of verses?
The next instance of the word fair – at least fair in this context – doesn’t appear until Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians –
2Co 6:11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.
This is getting closer – Paul is asking them to be fair. One might be tempted to think that Paul’s request is getting to the heart of what we mean when we say life isn’t fair.
But wait – this is Paul – the Apostle.
Let’s look at this in context.
Just before this request, Paul wrote in verses 3-10 –
2Co 6:3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Take a look at that again. Now this could be what we are talking about.
But wait –
Paul isn’t saying that the beatings, imprisonments … riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; are unfair.
No – not at all. He’s fine with them.
His closing words for the paragraph are even
and yet possessing everything
No – Paul is saying that what’s unfair is that the Corinthians are closing their hearts.
And isn’t that exactly what we do when we choose to ignore what God tells us about Himself?
Think about this. For all the people who are mad at God (as I was), who are calling Him unfair, who don’t like His rules, who are unhappy about something related to Him – every single one of them (myself included) cannot claim that we were not told. We absolutely were told! Otherwise, we couldn’t complain! It’s just not possible to complain about something about which we know nothing. One has to know that something exists in order to complain about that thing.
We absolutely do know He claims to be God. We absolutely do have the ability to read His rules – and the good stuff too – in the Bible. Whether we choose to read them – that’s another story. Some hear that He’s God – and complain right away.
As noted above, we also have the ability, if we choose to read the Bible, to understand it – or not. Some will read – and complain, without ever attempting to understand it.
And then there’s the problem – also discussed in the Bible – of Satan. Too many people read the Bible – don’t understand it – but still claim they are right and that the Bible says God’s a horrible person. And some people who really are trying to understand God – end up going to someone or someplace that has the wrong idea. It’s good to ask questions – but it’s also important to go back to what the Bible actually says – and see if it lines up. People who don’t believe that God is loving, kind, righteous, just, and fair – they don’t get it. If we’re with that kind of person, or at that kind of church – it’s time to find another source of information about God.
Let me ask just one question – then we’ll proceed. If God was really mean and out to get people and send us all to Hell – why was Jesus on earth to (a) tell us about the love the Father has for us and (b) to then die such a horrible death for us? Would you do that for someone you hated? Would you go through all that if the goal was to torture people in Hell for eternity? It doesn’t make sense. (I know – that was more than one question.)
So – let’s get back to the passage in 2 Corinthians.
Even the closing of this letter shows that what Paul wants is the best for the people he is writing to – the people he is asking to open their hearts – as we see in 2Co 13:10 –
…the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.
Very much in line with what I just wrote. The goal of all this, of everything that’s in the Bible, isn’t to tear us down. It isn’t to send us to Hell. It’s to tell us how to do exactly the opposite, and go to Heaven. But to tell one side of the story – either only Hell or only Heaven, would be to ignore justice. Justice requires punishment for doing wrong.
So far – no luck –
nothing like what we’re looking for –
nothing about life being fair to us.
There’s one last instance of the word fair in this meaning-
also from Paul – this time in Col 4:1 – which is actually the last line is a sequence of Col 3:18-4:1 –
Rules for Christian Households
Col 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Col 3:19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.
Col 3:20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Col 3:21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
Col 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.
Col 4:1 Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven
I’m guessing this doesn’t fit in with most of you are looking for.
It wasn’t what I often felt like.
This is all about how we should treat others –
not about they should treat us.
Surely – somewhere – God must have meant life to be fair.
Let’s take a look at “The Teacher” – Qoheleth –
let’s see what he has to say – for instance Ecc 3:16-17 –
Ecc 3:16 And I saw something else under the sun:
In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
Ecc 3:17 I thought in my heart,
“God will bring to judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time for every deed.”
OK – now we’re talking –
“God will bring to judgment
both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
a time for every deed.”
that still doesn’t say that life will be fair –
or even that life should be fair.
All of this leads to a question –
Wouldn’t it be great if life really was fair?
let’s check out that theory.
We’ll start with Genesis 6:5-7 –
Ge 6:5 The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”
That doesn’t sound so great.
Maybe this fairness thing isn’t all it was cut out to be.
If you don’t recognize the verses, they are talking about Noah and the flood. I mention this primarily as a reminder that, while you may not recognize the actual verses, I’m sure you have heard of “The Flood” and are aware of the circumstances around it. The question then is, what have we learned from it?
Just to be sure – let’s keep looking.
Well – there is the issue of Sodom and Gomorrah -which a lot of people today would really like to forget –
but still –
it is there –
with the conclusion in Gen 19:23-25 –
Ge 19:23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land.
Again, it’s a story that I think it’s safe to say we know about. But again, what have we learned from it?
That’s the problem with fairness – it goes both ways –
and what is “fair” depends on how objective the observer is.
The people in Noah’s time – they got what was right and just and fair.
The people in Lot’s time – they got what was right and just and fair.
They knew they shouldn’t be doing the things they were doing. But they did them anyway. Maybe we disagree with whether or not they did “wrong”. But they knew – they had been told. And we know – we’ve been told. And like everything else in life, there’s a price to be paid if we get caught breaking the rules.
There’s a prelude to Sodom & Gomorrah that’s most interesting.
Abraham actually bargained with God on this one –
trying to get Him to not destroy the cities.
God agreed to the bargain –
which we see in Gen 18:16-33 –
Abraham Pleads for Sodom
Ge 18:16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him , so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
Ge 18:20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
Ge 18:22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Ge 18:26 The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Ge 18:27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?”
“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”
Ge 18:29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”
He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”
Ge 18:30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”
He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
Ge 18:31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”
He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”
Ge 18:32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”
He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”
Ge 18:33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
For even ten good people –
God would not destroy any of them.
Ten good people were not found.
Abraham didn’t turn away from God after that. He didn’t get angry at God.
God did what was fair.
Abraham is known for his faithfulness to God. What happened didn’t change that.
He knew that what God did was just – the people were doing wrong, and there was a price to be paid.
He knew that what God did was right – the people were doing wrong, and at some point it had to be stopped.
And he knew that God was fair.
Pr 2:9 Then you will understand what is right and just and fair
Many from the Old Testament times understood. Many called out to God – asking Him how long He was going to let so many evil people live. They wanted a world where righteousness, justice, and fairness prevailed.
Somewhere along the line, we seem to have crossed over to not wanting that anymore. Even many who claim to follow God and call themselves Christians want God to loosen up and not punish evil anymore. But then there’s no justice. And there’s no righteousness. There’s no reason to not do wrong. There’s also no reason to do right either. It’s a world where anything goes. At what point will even murder be acceptable – because someone thinks killing another person what the right thing to do, in their minds, and therefore it was OK? Where does it end? And who gets to decide? Then fairness truly is out the window.
When will we understand that?
It’s not all about God doing whatever He wants, and therefore we suffer. No. It is about Him doing what He wants. But what He wants, not coincidentally, is what’s best for us. When will we understand that?
Time to ask a different question.
Is there ever a time when God has something that wasn’t right and just and fair?
a time when someone was killed, someone who’s life was ended, and they did nothing to deserve it?
to tell the truth –
there was one time that comes to mind.
But first –
let’s go back and see the beginning of this article –
And we can all go on and on about why it isn’t fair –
especially why it isn’t fair to us.
And – we probably throw in something about God not being fair to us –
maybe even that He abandoned us.
You know what –
that person who was killed – one who didn’t do anything to deserve it –
just before he died –
he also said something along similar lines about being abandoned –
why have you forsaken me?
to understand the circumstances –
Mt 27:45 From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Think life isn’t fair?
Ask Jesus about that one.
What did He ever do to deserve that?
What did we ever do to deserve the life we have?
What we deserve is the death the people of Noah’s time got.
What we deserve is the death the people of Lot’s time got.
What we actually get is a chance at the eternal life that Jesus died to give us.
Life isn’t fair!
No – it isn’t.
No matter what we may think at certain times in our lives –
we get so much when we deserve nothing.
Thank God – Life isn’t fair.
Thank God that He wants to maintain justice, righteousness, and fairness in the world we live in.
Thank God that Jesus paid the price for what we’ve done wrong.
Thank God that we don’t have to suffer for eternity.
Thank God that we don’t have to be perfect – because we can’t be.
Thank God that Jesus was perfect in our place – and that His righteousness can be credited to us.
Thank God that He hasn’t forsaken us.
Thank God that life isn’t fair.