Recently I posted a question on social media: If you could ask God one question, what would you ask Him? Several good questions were posed, so I decided to do a series of blogs on the questions.
The Question: "Why did God bless some on the earth with many gifts, blessings, talents, wealth, physical attraction, and so on while others have ailments, disabilities, poor mental function, born in poverty, depression and so on? In other words, why is life not fair when God could have made it so?"
Reflecting Compassion and Thanksgiving
This is a great question. Most of us have experienced guilt over having more or frustration over having less. When one person compares his/her circumstance to that of another, there is never uniformity. The fact that we are aware of our blessings and attentive to the struggles of others shows a heart of thanksgiving and compassion that is reflective of Christ.
In other words, the very fact we ask the question indicates that God is at work in us.
If we were so consumed with selfishness that we were unable to recognize blessings in our lives or struggles in others', then we wouldn't even be discussing the issue. At the risk of passing judgement, this may be why popular news outlets give as much (or more) attention to the activities of young socialites than to the plight of religious and ethnic minorities in Syria, Iraq, and China. At even greater risk of judgement, it is perhaps the reason our leaders can golf and vacation in luxury while our soldiers and citizens remain wrongfully imprisoned abroad.
Fairness is an Illusion
However, recognizing the suffering of some and prosperity of others does not indicate that we are fully qualified to determine what is just. Speaking of my own perspective, most of my questions to God relate to why He doesn't do what seems right to me. At first glance, it seems that the world would be better if the scales were balanced, if everyone were treated the same. Equality of pay, beauty, health, and comfort seems like utopia....seems like.
I wonder what the world would be like if everything really was the same, if we all looked the same, were paid the same, had the same number of friends, and same quality of relationships. I don't think we would like it. In a world where everyone is treated the same at all times, no one feels special at any time.
Think of what happens when we try to make things fair. When everyone is paid the same, we argue about who is doing more work. When everyone is dressed the same, we feel insecure about the physical differences that stand out all the more.
There is a reason. Sameness is boring and variety is beautiful. It is the differences in people that make them special, differences that are often shaped by life circumstances. We want to be individuals with our own personalities and ways of life. We want things our way.
Fairness is an illusion. One person is handsome but gets cancer. Another is homeless but knows love like no one else. No standard exists to to gauge the fairness of one life against another. What I think a person needs to feel joy is often very different than what they think they require, which is often different from what they actually need. The reality is that there is no way to have fairness in this world.
Fairness is the term we give to the illusion that equality is possible, an equality that we only think we want.
Fairness vs. Justice
Let's forsake the idea of fairness in favor of a pursuit of justice. While the terms have their roots in the same idea, "fairness" has been used to describe equality in a particular circumstance. When we pursue fairness we say things like, "Micah got 3 pennies, so I should have 3 too" (often while holding a quarter in our hands). As adults, it we are careful enough not to articulate the feelings we have about fairness...feeling that our co-worker doesn't deserve his new car or that we don't deserve to be sick like the jerk who double parks his Lexus at the mall. Fairness never takes into account the whole life of a person. It doesn't see the abuse the bully gets at home or friendship the love a dying child get's from her mother. Fairness doesn't account for what happened yesterday or what will happen tomorrow. It is only concerned with sameness now. And, that is a very narrow way to see things.
Fairness means standing on the scales and putting one's perception of our neighbor on the other pan. Justice is another thing entirely.
Justice means standing on one side of the scale as God stands on the other. With justice, I can't compare myself or my circumstances to that of another flawed human being. I look at my life in light of God's righteousness and realize that I don't deserve anything and neither does anyone else. He is perfect. I am not.
When God's righteousness is the standard, everyone is found wanting.
Justice means none of us deserve anything good.
Pleasure vs. Plan
Things change when we look at the world in light of God's justice and His plan. Not only are we aware of our universal shortcomings, but we are keenly aware of God's greatness. In light of God's greatness, the balance between humans doesn't matter. What matters is doing justice, show mercy, and live humbly (Micah 6:8). In light of God's greatness, I am less concerned with comparisons and more concerned with restoring people to the relationship God created them to have (Romans 6:23). The good news of Jesus is not that he will make everything fair, it's that He will make all things new (Revelation 21:5).
Think about what that says about God. He could have created a world where everything was fair, but it would have required that none of us have any freedom of decision. To be fair means to be same and to be same means doing the same and thinking the same. God wanted variety. He wanted freedom. He wanted you to choose Him or not.
More than that, He had a plan to restore to newness what we would destroy. We all rejected God in some way or another. That sin brought every kind of death, evil, and suffering into this world (Romans 6:23). We all sinned (Romans 2:23), but God had a plan for making things right.
Jesus saving work means that I get what I don't deserve. He loves me unconditionally, forgives my sin debt, and blesses me in ways I could never have imagined. When I realize that everything I have is a gift I didn't deserve, then I want to love people in the way that I have been loved.
The very first sin was like a rock dropped into a pond. The ripple effect has brought suffering and death to everyone, but Jesus death and resurrection is like another rock dropped in the same pond. This one is different. The ripple effect from Jesus brings restoration (Romans 5:12-21).
Jesus' resurrection set in motion a process of healing that has only just begun. Join us on Sunday night to hear more. However, I for one am glad that God doesn't make things fair. He makes all things new.