That’s. Not. Fair!
Not too long ago, my family lingered at the dinner table after eating, reminiscing about the “old days”. My boys were remembering the silly shenanigans they pulled when they were younger. Of course, the natural progression of this conversation led them to begin recalling not only the pleasant memories of their mischief, but the consequences of that mischief as well. Time out was a common occurrence in our house when we had 4 little ones. As I watched my oldest tell the story of “this” time out and “that” time out, I saw his sweet smile fade to realization. He paused for just a moment and then looked at me and said, “I was in time out a lot when I was little, but Sydney (our youngest child) has never been in time out”. I nodded my head in agreement. There are good reasons for that truth, but before I could explain, it came. The words we’ve all heard fall out of a child’s mouth at one time or another. “That’s. Not. Fair!” Let those words sink in. That’s not fair. Do those words sting a little or resonate somewhere deep in you? I ask because if we are really being honest with ourselves, it’s not just a thing kids say.
Fairness, it’s a thing all of our hearts long for. We may have moved on from actually saying those words…it’s not fair, but we still want it. As people created in the image of God, we possess the power to reflect His very heart and character. We serve a fair God, so naturally we crave the things of this world to be fair. And they are. That was hard to read, but don’t stop reading. You may disagree and I may have just made you angry, but stick with me…we’re going somewhere.
We’ve all experienced moments in our lives when we had much to be grateful for but before we said, “Thank you” we noticed someone else had different blessings and our gratitude turned to expectation and longing for fairness. Expecting fairness is the enemy of gratitude. When we perceive things in our world as being unfair, we are robbed of our gratitude, so we’ve got to change how we think about this whole “fairness” thing.
Are you ready for this?
Fairness doesn’t equal sameness, but our culture leads us to believe that it does... everything should be the same for everyone…everyone walks away from competition with a trophy.
My son would maybe agree at this point. In his mind for things to be fair, all his siblings would have spent the same amount of their childhood sitting in time out. Maybe you agree. Maybe you look around and see other people with nicer cars or bigger houses or more exciting jobs and you agree that things aren’t fair simply because things aren’t the same. All things in life are definitely not the same. People do earn different amounts of money, sometimes for the same job…illness and disease do wreak havoc in some families and not others…the innocent are convicted while the guilty walk free, the deserving do get passed up for the promotion. Things most definitely are not the same and that doesn’t seem fair. Fairness doesn’t equal sameness.
Fairness equals justness. God’s love for us is unbiased and salvation is available to every one of us. That being said, God doesn’t give us the same in life; He gives us what we need to fulfill the plan He has for us in the kingdom. Some of us are blessed with money and resources, or good health, or time, and our responsibility is to use those blessings to the best of our ability and to be grateful and content never forgetting that we don’t deserve a bit of it…not what we have nor what others have.
I was in Nashville not too long ago attending a conference. One of the speakers got to a place in his message where he was talking about a trial that he had recently been through in his life, which led him to share a few thoughts on fairness in our lives. He retold the story of Jesus restoring the demon -possessed man from Luke 8. Jesus arrives on the scene to find a man who has been tortured, full of demons, chained hand and foot, and driven into solitary places. Can you imagine what a terrible existence that was? The demons begged Jesus to let them enter into a nearby heard of pigs and Jesus allows it. The demons enter the pigs and the entire herd rushes down a steep bank into the lake and they drown. Later, the people from the town“found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind;” Can you picture that? That had to be the best day of that man’s life. What a blessing! And now I’m stepping outside of scripture for just a minute. The speaker went on to ask us if we could imagine the dinner conversation between the pig farmer and his wife that night? That was a bad day for him…maybe even one of the worst days of his life. He lost everything through no fault of his own. It got me thinking. Maybe the pig farmer went home and told his wife and they spent some time talking about how unfair that was and how they deserved a blessing more than the demon possessed dude did. Maybe they complained and felt sorry for themselves, but maybe, just maybe the pig farmer went home and said, “Today was a really hard day for us…it hurts and it’s going to hurt for awhile longer…I’m not even exactly sure what we’re going to do moving forward or how we will get through this, but I saw God today.” Maybe he said, “I saw a miracle in someone else’s life and not only am I going to celebrate that, but I’m going to let it bring me hope for our situation too.” Maybe he said, “I’m going to trust the God that I just saw move, to make a way for us through this.” Maybe they felt grateful in the moment instead of bitter because it didn’t seem fair. I want to respond that way in my life, don’t you? Just think about what our society…our city…our schools…our neighborhoods…our churches…our families would be like if we all responded out of gratitude and awe of what God is doing instead of with bitterness lamenting what appears to be unfair to us!
We’ve got to stop the whole comparison thing!
In John 21, Jesus tells Peter about the way in which he will die in order to glorify God and it does not sound good. Peter looks around and sees John and goes, “Hey Jesus, what about this guy? What’s going to happen to him?” And Jesus says to Peter, “Worry about your own stuff. If I want something for John, I’ll give it to him. Your deal is your deal…focus on that!” Well, not in those words, but you get the idea. We’ll never understand this side of eternity why blessing appears to be rained down for some people and withheld from others. We can’t think the way that God thinks, but we can hang on to the heart and the character of a good Father and trust that He has us.
When things are hard and when things don’t go our way…when we see another human seemingly living an easier life…living the life we long for, when we see what appears to be blessing being poured out on people who are living far from God while we suffer in some way all the while chasing breathlessly after Jesus, we can not help but cry out, “God, that’s not fair!” But God answers us with are you jealous that I’m generous? Do you really want everyone to sit in time out for the same amount of time? The only appropriate response and the one God is looking for is gratitude for the blessing we do have because when we are grateful, only then will it be well with our souls even when it is not well with our circumstances.