The Inequality Of Life

The phrase, "It's not fair," is commonly heard among siblings when one perceives that an inequality has occurred. Why is this so? Because we live in a society where life is often assessed in terms of "fairness." Many folks are raised from childhood with the notion that things need to be "fair." If you have a turn, then I must also have a turn. If you have two of something and I have none, then you must share with me. If you receive something, then I am also entitled to the same.

Such a crooked perspective parallels what is "fair" with what is "equal." Such a correlation results from forced fairness — that of a communist/socialist system. Fair and equal are not synonymous. In fact, forced fairness precipitates injustice, contempt and incivility. In their book, "No Greater Joy", (Vol. 1, Michael & Debi Pearl), the following statement is made, "when fairness is forced, it will never be carried out with benevolence on the part of the one being stripped of his abundance, nor can it be received with thankfulness on the part of the one expecting legislated equality."

Let's recall the parable of the day laborers (Matthew 20:1-16), noting that some of the workers perceived that they were not being paid fairly. With the first folks who came, the landowner agreed "for a denarius a day" (Matthew 20:2). Those who were hired at the third, sixth and ninth hours were told, "whatever is right I will give you" (Matthew 20:4,6). And finally, those hired at the eleventh hour were told, "whatever is right you will receive" (Matthew 20:7).

When it came time to settle with the laborers, from the last hired through to the first, each one received a denarius for their work. Not long thereafter, came the cry from those who had worked from the morning until the evening, "unfair, unfair." How could the landowner possibly pay men a denarius who had only worked one hour? Note the landowner's words, "Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good" (Matthew 20:13-15).

Also note the seemingly unfairness in the eyes of the older brother toward the younger brother in the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11-32). What is the attitude that causes this cry of unfairness? Is it not covetousness? Is it not the desire to have what another has, in which we perceive that we should also have? The apostle Paul identifies it as a form of idolatry (Colossians 3:5), which the Hebrew writer cautions us about (Hebrews 13:5). We need to hear the words of Jesus on this matter (Luke 12:15).

Dear reader, it matters not whether we are treated fairly, whether we receive our "fair share," or whether things are "equal" in all circumstances. What will matter when this life is temporal life is over, is how we served our God and fellow man (Matthew 22:37-39; cf. Romans 12:1-21). Let's face it there are times when life is simply just not fair. However, in eternity, God will be perfectly fair. Let us then focus on God's eternal justice, and not fleeting injustices here on earth. —William Steward, preacher for the Limestone congregation, Kingston, Ontario

Mike Riley, Gospel Snippets