Isn’t life supposed to be fair?
“Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.” — -Oscar Wilde
As a middle school English teacher, I try to make my writing assignments interesting for my students. My thought is, if they are interested in what we’re writing, they’ll learn better.
With the writing I have to cover, these assignments are not always possible, but I have found that several of my prompts have generated a high level of enthusiasm.
One of these favored assignments is, “Questions your parents ask that you should never answer out loud.” Here are a few of their questions:
Do you want me to pull over to the side of the road?
Do you think I’m made of money?
Do you think I have all day?
Do I need to come down there to settle this argument?
Do you think money grows on trees?
After the students have written for a while, I have them share their lists. There is much laughter as they all chant after each statement, “Do not answer that!”
There is another question that I find adults have asked kids throughout the ages that many of us still want to ask, “Do you think life is supposed to be fair? Gasp. Silence.
Yes! Life is supposed to be fair, isn’t it?
We have an innate desire for fairness.
- We desire racial fairness
The desire for racial fairness burns within. We can sit around and make politically correct statements that all men are created equal, but the proof is in the pudding, sort-of-speak.
Actions speak louder than words and when weighing racial fairness, many of us come up lacking; it causes many to yell, “Why isn’t my life fair?”
2. We desire social fairness
The ingrained desire within us for social fairness is clear, even at a young age.
As children, we are angry or hurt when others don’t include us in a playground game.
No one likes to be the last one chosen for kickball, either.
As adults, we experience feelings that are similar when someone does not include us in a planned activity.
The same is true when a woman sees two other women, huddled together, speaking quietly and they do not include her. She may lament, “This is not fair!”
3. We desire financial fairness
Living in what the locals title, Downeast Maine has opened my eyes to what poverty in the U.S. looks like.
Washington County, Maine (where I live) has one of the biggest populations (per capita) of poverty in the country.
I see students of mine rejoice when school starts again because now, they’ll be warm (and zero degrees in homes that are not “winterized” is horrid), they’ll have two meals, for sure, and they will experience hope from teachers that try their best to comfort them.
These types of financial conditions compared to many others in our country just doesn’t seem fair.
The desire for racial, social and financial fairness (to name a few) can spur individuals or groups to act on the behalf of those in need.
Many reforms in our county’s history have started with this ingrained desire for fairness.
There is one category of fairness, however, I have yet to address because it can cause a mixed bag of emotions and reactions and that is spiritual fairness.
We Desire Spiritual Fairness
We desire that God treat us fairly. This is tricky because, if God is Who the Bible says He is, we’re all on a level playing field. (That’s good, right?)
We read throughout the pages of scripture that God loves everyone equally.
I, personally, relish the fact that God completely loves and accepts me, flaws and all. I have found, though, in honestly thinking about this, because I have biases (and we all do), God’s love and treatment of others is hard to swallow, at times.
Sometimes our desire for fairness is “nearsighted”. I love that God treats me fairly but when I see others behaving in ways I don’t approve, God’s acceptance of them can rub me the wrong way.
Does God treat people fairly?
I think to answer this question, I must state that I see a marked difference between fairness and justice.
For the sake of clarity, I define fairness as “receiving equal benefits and problems in life” and justice, “receiving just deserts” or getting what you deserve.
The question that raises its head is, does God treat people fairly or, are we asking, does God dole out justice?
God treats people fairly
Throughout the Bible, we see the message that God gives His love to everyone. “For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
Because God loves all of us, it’s a comfort. I don’t have to do or be anything special; He loves me as much and unconditionally.
This is humbling as I think of people like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa, who gave their lives in service to God, and yet, in God’s eyes, I’m on the same level.
This unconditional love can, at times, become uncomfortable, however. Matthew 5:45 points out that God sends the rain on the just and unjust; that He provides for everyone whether they deserve it or not.
I sometimes feel like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son.
In summary, a son asks his father for his inheritance early and once he receives it, he wastes it on what we would call, “wine, women and song”. This son winds up having to feed pigs and decides he’d be better off going home.
His father rejoices and welcomes him home but the oldest son isn’t happy about this. Why? Because this isn’t fair!
He had been by his father’s side the whole time and he didn’t feel appreciated for this. The older son only considered fairness, equally receiving the good and the bad but there is the counterpart of fairness and it is justice.
God practices justice with all people
In both our legal and spiritual worlds, we must consider justice when demanding fairness.
If we do something wrong, either in the eyes of the law or the eyes of God and we are declared guilty, justice dictates that a punishment must be paid.
This is where we see the love of God; He allows mercy and grace to play a role in justice.
The role of mercy and grace makes fairness mind-boggling. Mercy and grace are two sides of a coin named, Undeserved.
Mercy is not receiving the punishment we deserve and grace is receiving a gift we don’t deserve. So, now the question must be, how is justice upheld with grace and mercy involved?
From God’s point of view (do I dare think that I even know the mind of God? Please note: this is my humble attempt to understand Someone Who is unfathomable), He says that the punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23), YET, God, in His love, allowed the substitutional death of perfect sacrifices.
This began in the book of Genesis and continued into the New Testament when God allowed Jesus’s perfect sacrifice on the cross to be payment for our sins.
If we accept this gift from God, He wipes our legal/spiritual debt clean because our debt from our sin has been paid. Fair? Unfair? It’s hard to wrap my mind around this.
When my soul considers fairness, it rejoices because mercy and grace abound. Perhaps if we used mercy and grace more in our own words and actions, our treatment of others will more reflect God’s treatment of us.
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