I remember when I was a kid, I will would repeat these words whenever I felt I was wronged by another person, “that’s not fair!”. Truth is… it probably wasn’t fair but my mom taught me early on that life wasn’t fair.
I have had this lesson proven to me in a variety of ways over the years. Without boring you with the details of a sad story about how I was done wrong at some point in my life, take my word for it, I have lived most of life knowing that life wasn’t fair and it never would be.
It didn’t make much sense to me as a kid, but I now find myself repeating it frequently to my own kids. As I have grown older, and hopefully a little bit wiser, I have come to appreciate the simple truth of that statement.
Fairness has become the battle cry of our society. When something isn’t fair, it is viewed as inherently wrong or even evil. We have gone from a culture and society here in the United States which was built on the idea of equal opportunity and “evolved” into a culture that expects an equal outcome. Kids do not fail, everyone gets a trophy, and people bring presents to a birthday party for the other kids in the family because they don’t want them to feel left out. We live in a culture that demands fairness at all times and in all respects.
The problem is – fairness is NOT a biblical concept. The God we serve is a God of justice, but nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that he is “fair.” Indeed, the idea of fair is a very human concept. The Bible never attributes the idea of fairness to God.
Let me explain…
Jesus didn’t carry any swords or spears. He didn’t have an army behind him. His only weapon was his mouth, and it was his message that got him into trouble. He made people so angry that they wanted to kill him.
His message was seen not merely as wrong—it was dangerous. It was subversive. It threatened to upset the social world of Judaism. But what kind of message could make the religious leaders so angry that they would kill the messenger? One idea that could anger the religious leaders is found in Matthew 9:13: “I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.” Jesus had a message of good news for sinners, but people who considered themselves good often thought that Jesus preached bad news.
Jesus invited prostitutes and tax collectors into the kingdom of God, and the good people didn’t like that. “That’s not fair,” they may have said. “We have been working hard to be good, and why can they get into the kingdom without working hard? If you don’t keep sinners out, it isn’t fair!”
Jesus was preaching that God is not fair. Most people think that fairness requires equal treatment for everyone, but when it comes to salvation, God simply isn’t fair. Even today, people don’t like to hear that idea. Good Christian people want God to be fair—but he isn’t.
GOD IS MORE THAN FAIR
God is just…not fair. The title of this post is “God is Just Not Fair”. When the word “just” is used as it is in the sentence, it simply states that God is “the same as” not being fair. However, when you use the word “just” as an adjective the definition of the word changes. For example, Merriam – Webster dictionary defines the word “just” when used as an adjective as follows:
a : having a basis in or conforming to fact or reason : reasonable <a just but not a generous decision>
b archaic : faithful to an original
c : conforming to a standard of correctness : proper <just proportions>
a (1) : acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good : righteous <a just war> (2) : being what is merited : deserved <a just punishment>
b : legally correct : lawful
By definition…it means that God is reasonable, faithful, proper, righteous, deserving and lawful.
So in fact God is “Just” which is more than fair. His grace is far beyond anything we could deserve. God is generous, full of grace, full of mercy, loving us even though we don’t deserve it.
That kind of message bothers religious leaders and all who say that the harder you work, the more you will get; if you behave better, you will get a better reward. Religious leaders like to have that kind of message, because it makes it easy to motivate people to work hard, to do right, to live right.
But Jesus says, It isn’t so.
If you have dug a really deep pit for yourself, if you have messed up time and time again, if you have been the worst sort of sinner, you don’t have to work your way out of the pit to be given salvation. God simply forgives you for the sake of Jesus. You don’t have to deserve it—God simply does it. You just need to believe it. You just need to trust God, to take him at his word: Your sin debt is removed from the record.
But it seems that some people are distressed at this kind of news. “Look, I’ve been working hard to get out of the pit,” they might say, “and I am almost out. You mean to tell me that ‘those’ people are pulled out of the pit instantly, without having to do any work at all? That’s not fair!”
No, grace is not “fair”—it is grace—it is a gift we did not deserve. God can be generous to whomever he wants to be generous to, and the good news is that he offers his generosity to everyone. It is fair in the sense that it extends to everyone, even though this means that he forgives some people a big debt, and some people a smaller debt—the same arrangement for all even though there are different circumstances.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in the church or how many sacrifices you have made; those are nothing in comparison to what God is giving us. The Apostle Paul worked harder than any of us; he made more sacrifices for the gospel than we realize, but he counted it all as a loss for Christ. It was nothing.
To be completely honest, we really do not want what is fair. Because fair for us is hell. We do not deserve the gift of grace that God gives us. If God were merely “fair” we would all have to pay for our sin. That payment for our sin would eternal separation from God. I believe that it would mean an eternity in Hell. Jesus Christ paid the debt of our sin by His death on the cross. By His resurrection we have the hope of an eternity in Heaven with Him. It is a free gift and nothing you can do will make you worthy of God’s grace.
So is God fair? No, He is not fair… He’s “just” and I am so thankful that He is. How about you?