I ask the question to many people only to receive the same response by either a stare that says “you’re crazy” or words to that effect. The question? Why do we believe everything should be fair? Where does that thought come from? I am not sure I have an answer myself. What I do know is that we seem to be hardwired to this impossible concept. Even though we cannot make everything fair, we continue to demand it, insist on it and even pass laws and make rules to attempt to insure that everything is fair.
Don’t make things confused by equating justice and fairness. The two are not the same thing even if we think they are. In fact, they are often two opposing ideas. Sometimes we must choose one or the other, we often can’t have both.
God is just. He is also righteous. He isn’t necessarily “fair” whatever fair is. That’s the problem, we can’t define fairness. It defies being defined. We can only say, “I know it when I see it.” Or when fairness fits my opinion of what fairness should be.
Is it fair that because some children work hard in school and achieve good grades and receive awards when others do not? Would it be fair if everyone received an award so no one got hurt feelings or got left out? Would it be fair if no one got an award and achievement was left unrewarded? Fairness only exists in the mind of the beholder. There is no objective standard for fairness.
Justice on the other hand is rooted and grounded in God’s law. It has objective standards. If God is just and righteous, then His law is also. His law is the same all the time, unchanging regardless of opinion, circumstances or whims of political correctness.
When we descend into the pit of demanding fairness in every outcome, we increase conflict. Conflict arises when two parties disagree on what is fair. Resolution only comes when “might makes right”, whoever has the biggest fists, or power to force compliance. Want to try your own social experiment? Point out to any group of children how one of them has a toy the others don’t have and tell them it’s not fair. We don’t have to guess how that experiment will turn out. It gets much more serious when we do the same thing to one another as adults. You may have something others don’t have, you may have worked hard for it, you may have been responsible enough to receive it and you may have valued the right things in order to obtain it. Someone can come along who hasn’t worked hard, who may be irresponsible or values contrary things and still claim it isn’t fair that you have and they have not.
Some are confused to think that God is always fair. He isn’t. He even admits that He is not fair. Check out the story of the vineyard owner and his laborers in Matthew 20: 1-16. Or, more well known, the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15: 11-32. In each story the protagonist is God and the antagonists are us. Can you read between the lines enough to hear the antagonists screaming, “it’s not fair!”?
Why even bring this up? Hopefully we will understand that when we are baited into the fairness doctrine that says, “everything must be fair all the time” we are easily manipulated by others using our greed and insecurity to achieve what they want from us. We also will not find peace and contentment with what we have but always be envious of others. We become powerless victims instead of being empowered to find reward from our own hard work, personal responsibility and right values.
To leave the demand for fairness behind, we must have complete confidence in God’s justice and righteousness. We must trust God is always faithful, that right will win over wrong. Justice will prevail over injustice. That God rewards those who keep His law. That God is our source of prosperity and blessings. Only then will we find the peace and contentment that eludes us when we think that life should always be fair.
I love the chorus that is sung by those in heaven recorded in the Revelation 15:3: “Great and marvelous are your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!”
It may take some time to make sense of what I am saying. Not many even have the understanding to point this out, yet I think if you will apply some critical thinking skills to understanding this, you might find yourself on a new path, one that leads to a better place, empowerment and life.
Rev. Stephen S. Brown is Pastor at the Kenai New Life Assembly of God.