Life’s Not Fair

Leslie croppedAlan and I have a 7 and an 8-year-old running around our house, so the call for “fairness” is a big deal. Phrases like, “Mom, that’s not fair! Isaac just…” or “Dad, that’s not fair! Molly didn’t …” can often be heard floating around our house.  Such complaints are usually met with one of us saying something to the effect of,  “Life’s not fair, honey. Go play (or go clean your room or whatever it was they were supposed to be doing in the first place).”

When the kids were younger, there was no need for fairness. They were simply content if their basic needs were met. If there was an occasion and special attention or gifts came their way, they were thrilled. Those first Christmas’ were fantastic because there was no comparison of gifts or expectation of receiving anything. There was only joy in receiving the gifts they were given. Not anymore. The natural progression of maturity has brought them to the point of being able to see not only what they have been given, but also what others around them have been given. There is now an expectation of what they should receive based on what they had been given in the past or if they’ve been “good”. At this stage, their clamoring for equality and fairness is primarily selfish and based out of their own disappointment or disillusionment.

I feel like one of the most important things my kids can learn is that life is not fair and they can be glad it’s not.

Before saying any more, please hear me… This idea is one I want to teach my kids knowing they have a safe, loving home. They have plenty to eat. They have clothes to wear.  They are getting a good education. They have a doctor to go to when they are sick. The idea is not for those whose basic needs are not being met. We should stand up and fight for justice on behalf of all whose circumstances in life have left them with anything less than a loving, safe, and well provided for environment.

That said, anyone reading this, including myself, can benefit from the gentle reminder that we should be glad life is not fair. We can read and we have access to a computer or the printed word. Those things alone put us into a “blessed” category.

For those of us who are believers in Jesus and who have received the new life He offers through His death and resurrection, this idea is imperative. We sometimes spend so much energy and effort pointing out others mistakes; we forget to be thankful for all we’ve been given. We forget that without Jesus, we are all in the same boat of depravity.

I recently finished reading the book of Acts and started reading Romans, simply because it was next. With a firm belief in the traditional biblical views of sex and sexuality and with the firm belief that Jesus didn’t die any more or less for my sin than someone else’s sin, I began reading. Knowing that Romans 1 can be used as a divisive chapter in the Bible and without jumping into a theological or cultural deep-ended discussion, can I just say what jumped off the page to me as I read it? Did you know that right there, in Romans 1 vs. 30 and 32 it says, those who disobey their parents (among other things) deserve to die according to the ordinance of God. Ouch! To any who have sinned, which according to the list is everyone, death is fair and just according to the ordinances of God. You want to know what’s not fair? It’s not fair that Jesus took my place and suffered the death sentence in my place. You want to know what’s not fair? He didn’t just die for me and give me back my old life. He gave me new and eternal life. That’s so not fair! Knowing that is a game changer… It. Changes. Everything.

What would happen if we, as the Church, took a deep restorative breath and stopped pointing our fingers at the sin in others? What if we fearlessly based everything we did on Love? Have you ever been a total mess and had someone genuinely say that they love you? This morning my daughter told me that I smelled good. I hadn’t showered. I hadn’t brushed my teeth.  Rather than calling out the fact that I needed to brush my teeth, she called out the truth that my presence somehow overcame my stinkiness and I was pleasing to her. Isn’t that why Jesus asked us not to focus on the speck in someone else’s eye? Purposefully not pointing out someone’s sin does not equal condoning sin. If it did Jesus wouldn’t have told us to do it. We just shouldn’t attempt it if there is a big log in our own eye! You want to know what would happen if we loved fearlessly: bridges that led to Christ would be built and people would be in awe like they were in the early church because we were getting along! Can we please stop acting like 8 year olds who feel the need “tell on” their brother or sister or even the other kid on the playground with whom they have no relationship?  There may be things that people are doing that are sinful, but let’s let Daddy deal with those things! Only He can handle both the facts of, and provide a way out of our mess.

Now, before the realties of “Church discipline” distract anyone and they miss the point, of course there are times when intervention is necessary. I’m just saying tread lightly. Love boldly. Remember it is the kindness and tolerance of God that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Is it fair that someone “in sin” gets to sit in church, hear the message of God’s love, worship Him, enjoy fellowship and eat from the same table as the “good Christians” do? Maybe not, but aren’t you glad He wasn’t fair with you?

Just in case you were wondering if there is any biblical truth to back up the thoughts I’ve shared about fairness… Read the parable about the workers in the field who were mad because they had worked hard all day got the same pay as those who came at the end of the day and didn’t work at all. Read the parable of the son who was angry because while he worked hard to please his father, his younger brother took advantage of his father’s kindness and squandered his inheritance. When the younger son returned to an unprecedented welcome, in anger the older son first showcased everything he had accomplished and then quickly pointed out his brother’s misdeeds. These guys were mad because from their perspective, the landowner and the father did not act fairly. What they didn’t realize was that the landowner and the father based the rewards not on fairness but their own goodness. Only when we get this most basic truth, that everything we receive from God is based on His goodness, can we begin to thoroughly enjoy our lives and the work He has given us to do. When I’m not feeling especially joyful in my work or in my circumstances, when I am feeling judged by others or when I catch myself judging others, I am learning to stop and thank the Father for not being fair.

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