I meet many people who struggle with the concept of fairness. In fact, I would say that this is a primary reason that people reject the message of the gospel: it just seems so patently unfair. And sadly it is a reason that many Christians have fallen away from Christ and His church: because they feel that they have been treated unfairly. The resulting hurt, disappointment and bitterness causes lasting spiritual, emotional, and even physical damage.
With the hope of a New Year before us, I thought that this is an issue that needs addressing. You see, I agree with the assessment that life isn't fair, and I even agree with the assessment that God isn't fair. Now that statement might shock you, especially coming from a pastor, but please allow me to explain. There is a verse in Scripture that I struggled to come to grips with for many years. Romans 5:12 says, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (italics and bold mine)." (NKJV) I have read this verse in many other versions just to make certain that what was being translated into the English was indeed accurate, and I found to my dismay that it was always the same. When Adam sinned, I sinned. The Bible doesn't say, "because all we born with a predisposition to sin". This alone would have been difficult enough to accept, but that's NOT what the Bible says. It says, "[in Adam] all sinned".
So my sin was already upon me before my birth. And it isn't just this one verse that tells us this. "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." (Psalm 51:5) "All have (past tense) sinned, and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) I might not think that this is fair, but it's true. And God's sense of morality and what is right has to be higher than my own. After all, He is the Creator.
The principle of inherited sin is not one people can naturally accept because they are born sinners. I cannot stress this truth enough: our sense of what is right and wrong, what is fair and unfair is skewed from conception. The original sin of Adam in the Garden corrupted all of his offspring. This is why it was absolutely necessary that Jesus was born of a virgin, because sin is passed down through the male. This is the way God designed the human race. And we are a race. Not many races, but one. There are different ethnic groups, but only one human race. And we all have sinned. We all deserve the penalty of sin: death. Physical death and eternal death of the soul. The evidence of this spiritual truth is that everyone dies. No matter how hard we may try to deny it, God's spiritual law still applies to us and it affects our entire being, body, mind, and spirit.
So back to the original statement: life isn't fair. But why? Because there is a remedy for sin. Fair would have meant that we all are destined for hell. For eternal death. This is what our nature demands. Fair means that we all stand under God's judgment. Now I know that my sinful self screams against this truth. It says, "What are you talking about!!!???? How is it fair that I suffer because of someone else's sin?" But it's funny how I am so willing to accept the benefits of what someone else has done for me. Think about it, we human beings are designed to live in community. If everyone of us had to start life from "scratch" as it were, were would we be? All living in caves. But God has given us the privilege of raising children and giving them a better life than the one we had. He gives society the chance to progress, to discover new things and pass that knowledge on to the next generation. Is that really "fair"? What about those in another country who have less opportunity? Is it fair that I was born into the most affluent society in history with medical care, air conditioning and heating and food in abundance? Not really. If life was really "fair", I'd start from scratch just like Adam and Eve had to. And if God took any of these modern amenities away from me I'd probably struggle a great deal. "It's not fair!", I'd be tempted to say.
We readily accept God's blessings, but are so quick to complain when we don't receive the things we think we should have. The truth of the matter is, it doesn't matter what I think "fair" should look like; it only matters what God thinks. He isn't going to change His governance based on yours or my approval. I mean seriously, how arrogant is that!? The truth is, we live in one of the most prideful societies in history. We think that God somehow has to bow to our ideas or notions of fairness and we withhold worship and obedience when we feel that He has wronged us. We need to repent of this kind of thinking. And the church needs to repent of it especially. Christians: your devotion to God should never hinge on notions of His "fairness" to you. He has been more than fair--that was settled at Calvary.
Thank goodness God isn't fair! The question should never be, "why did this happen to me (or my loved one)"? It should never be "why do some people go to hell?". Rather, it should be, "why do I have this blessing?" and "why do some people go to heaven?" Let me ask you a question: Was it fair that the second person of the Godhead would take on human form and die on a cross for the sin of the world? Absolutely not! This is the question I have regarding Genesis 3. Not why did God allow Adam and Eve to sin, knowing what pain it would cause them but why did God allow them to sin knowing what pain it would cause Him?
I'm not saying that we won't struggle with these questions (goodness knows I have struggled), but in the long haul we must submit to God's truth in this matter. Blessing and suffering come from His hand. What sin and evil God allows is often a great mystery, but we must believe that He is in control and that He knows best. Once we settle the question of God's sovereignty, we settle the question of fairness once for all. And we are free to experience the fullness of His grace without reservation. We are free to rejoice in the hope we have in Christ--that we can be a part of His family and have an eternal hope in heaven.
As you head into the New Year I encourage you not to think simply about how the year will be good for your plans and dreams, but how the New Year will be for God's sake. May you put Him on the throne of your heart. For "In Him we live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28)