“But It’s Not Fair!”
Psalm 73:1-5 Truly God is good to Israel, to such as are pure in heart. But as for me [Asaph], my feet had almost stumbled; my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the boastful, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no pangs in their death, but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, nor are they plagued like other men.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.
Isaiah 61:8a I, the Lord, love justice….
Song of Solomon 2:10 My beloved spoke, and said to me: “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.”
Everyone—especially any parent—has heard these words about fairness. You may have heard them come out of your own mouth. Happily, the scriptures recognize and address the struggle. Asaph, the author of Psalm 73, saw apparent inequity everywhere he looked. The author of the Song of Solomon made a similar observation in what he witnessed “under the sun.”
Perhaps even more happily, God is not fair. Yet before explaining that, let us admit that our God is just. He loves justice and righteousness, and promises that vengeance will occur—it’s just to be in His way and time. Deep down, we agree with Asaph later in that psalm that when he “went into the sanctuary of God, then [he] discerned [the end of the wicked]. He saw that “Truly [God] set them in slippery places; [and He made] them fall to ruin (Psalm 73:18).”
While working for justice here on earth, we must settle it in our hearts—“reckon” it, to use an old, apt word—that God knows what He is doing, that He loves justice more than we do, and that if we had a glimpse into the next life, we would never complain about the issue of fairness again.
Yet even in this life, it is a blessing that God is not fair. If God were “fair,” we would have to pay for our own sins. If God were “fair,” Jesus would not have had to pay for our sins. We were the sinners, and we instead inherit eternal life and a relationship with God when we turn to Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life, and received the opposite of what was fair: the King of Kings was mocked, grossly misunderstood, beaten and killed—all for sinful people. That’s not fair. But it’s merciful.
One last thought. When the author heard “it’s not fair” from his young children, he responded that the only meaning of “fair” in the Bible was “good-looking.” It may not have sunk in deeply, but it worked to derail their erroneous thought process and give them something to think about.
Prayer: Father, thank You that You operate out of love and mercy, and not out of our limited sense of what’s fair or not. I agree with Your word that You love justice, and reward it. Change my heart to reflect a more eternal view of justice and fairness, and soften it to see that the greatest injustice of all was that done to Jesus for me.