Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is God Fair?

On more than one occasion I've commented that "Fairness isn't a Biblical concept."

I was recently asked about a passage of Scripture that seems to contradict this rather bold statement of mine. A friend was preparing to lead a Bible study on Luke 12:35-48. One commentator wrote

The Lord then assures the people of a day of accounting: "From everyone who has
been given much, much will be demanded" (v.48). Knowledge and wealth bear with
them a tremendous responsibility. However, we have a fair and faithful God, and as His children we should allow our character to be thoroughly influenced by His attributes through the abiding presence of His Holy Spirit.
My friend asked me, "So, is God fair? Do these verses support that or am I not understanding something?"

My reply was as follows:

As with so many things, it all depends on our definitions.

What this author is calling "fairness" I would call justice. The different managers "get what they deserve." This is clearly a Biblical concept; the God of the Bible is a just God; all will be made right in the end.

In my mind, "fairness" is that which young children are so often concerned about - making sure that everyone gets treated exactly the same no matter what. ["But mom, that's not fair!!"] Over & over in Scripture we see God treating people "unfairly":
  • "Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Romans 9:13) is probably the most blatant example. Can you, as a parent, imagine Esau screaming to his mother or father "But that's not fair! God should love us both equally!"
  • Why did God choose the nation of Israel? Deuteronomy 7:7-9 tells us, “The LORD did not
    set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath He swore to your forefathers that He brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”
    Why did He choose Israel? Because He loved them. "But that's not fair! He should love the Assyrians and the Chaldeans and choose them too!"
  • Jesus chose 12 to be His apostles; why didn't He choose 24 or 36 or 48? "Just 12? - That's not fair! I wanted to be an apostle! MOM-MEEEEE!!"
  • Why did He give one the gift of teaching and another the gift of administration? "But that's not fair! We should all have the exact same spiritual gifts."
  • Why did God call me and not my brother (as of yet)? Because He's sovereign and His will is perfect - but not "fair" according to the ways of the world.

"Fair" in this definition isn't a Biblical concept; it's a worldly, self-centered, and selfish concept.

Have you ever noticed that when your kids are screaming about fairness, it's always to their own advantage? They never complain that "I got the bigger scoop of ice cream - that's not fair - you should give more ice cream to my brother!" If that day should ever come (!) then fairness just might turn into a Biblical concept.

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