“That’s not fair!”
I can remember as a child being so upset when things didn’t seem fair. If one of my siblings got something that I didn’t get I was so upset… I remember feeling as though I had been wronged. Now, as a father, I try to avoid the discussion altogether with my kids – I buy two of everything! If you’re a parent, you know how that is. Sometimes I wish my kids would just grow up a little bit. I’m glad to say that now that I am an adult, I have outgrown such childish ways… I only wish that were true! I catch myself often thinking, “God, that’s just not fair!” And, the reality is (as your parent probably told you) life isn’t fair!
I started thinking about this because of a portion of the passage that I am teaching this weekend at South Fellowship Church. It’s out of 1 Samuel 30:21-26. The context of this passage is that David went into battle with 400 men. He had an army of 600 at the time, but 200 of the men were too tired to go and fight in the battle. They stayed back at a brook and watched over the supplies. I think we can all agree, that’s probably an easier job than fighting in the war. Here is how David and his men respond as they come back with the spoils of victory from war:
21 Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Ravine. They came out to meet David and the people with him. As David and his men approached, he greeted them. 22 But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, “Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.”
23 David replied, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and handed over to us the forces that came against us. 24 Who will listen to what you say? The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.” 25 David made this a statute and ordinance for Israel from that day to this.
I don’t know about you, but I think I would have responded in the same way David’s fighting men did. It’s not fair that the men who didn’t fight in the war get to share in the spoils of the war. The spoils of the war should be reserved for the people who actually fought for it… right?
But, all throughout the scripture we see God doing things that just aren’t fair. You can read a parable that Jesus told in Matthew 20:1-16. In this parable, people who work one hour get the same wages as people who worked the whole day. That’s not fair! If I were in the crowd of people who worked the whole day, I would have felt a little bit wronged! On another occasion, Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples asks if John (another disciple) is going to stay alive until Jesus returns. Peter was concerned that John might get something that he didn’t. Jesus responded, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Essentially, Jesus said to Peter, “Peter, don’t worry about whether or not I’m fair, worry about whether or not you are following after me!”
God isn’t fair. All throughout, the scriptures tell of a God that isn’t fair. AND I’M SO GLAD THAT HE IS NOT FAIR! That’s good news! A lot of us think we want a God that is fair, but God is BETTER than fair… he’s gracious and merciful. See, grace and mercy are the antithesis of fairness. Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve (what we deserve would have been fair) and grace is God giving us better than what we deserve. The foundations of our salvation fly in the face of fairness. They press back against it; reminding us that God is so much better than fair. See, if God is simply fair, then no one gets to have relationship with him, because all of us have sinned and turned their back on him (Romans 3:23). Fairness means hell for me. Therefore, I celebrate a God who is so much better than fair!
Paul picks up on this truth in 2 Corinthians 5:21 when he states, “21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” God made him who had no sin to be sin… that’s not fair! He also made you and I (who were dead in sin) the righteousness of God… that’s not fair either. See, the gospel is not fair; it’s gracious.
You and I don’t want a God who is fair, and luckily for us, He isn’t! Can I encourage you today to bask in the ‘unfairness’ of God? Rest in the truth that he does not treat you as your sins deserve (Psalm 103:10), but he treats you as his son deserved. We can only sit in the goodness and grace of God is we are willing to drop our desire for God to be fair. Our desire for fairness reveals a deep-seeded conviction that we think we deserve what we have; but we don’t. We are only alive by God’s grace and I pray that we would enjoy it whole-heartedly today!