Monday, July 7, 2014

Life Isn't Fair and Neither Is God

As a child, one of my favorite outcries was “That’s not fair!” To this, my father would reply every time, “Who ever said life was fair? I never said life was fair.” It always amazed me that my “That’s not fair” made no difference to him. While it made sense to me that this unfairness, after being realized, would be immediately corrected—it never was. It seemed this very logical thought (correcting this terrible unfairness) never occurred to my father.

Maybe I’m thick-headed or just an eternal optimist, but I was in my twenties before I got it—Life REALLY ISN’T fair! My ice cream cone falls on the ground and my brother’s doesn’t. That nasty human being who cut me off in traffic glides through the intersection as the light turns and I get stuck at the red light. Other people go on vacations to the beach and it’s just never going to be in my budget.

Even in things that really matter, life isn’t fair. Dishonest people cheat and steal and get ahead while honest hard-workers struggle to get by. Sweet innocent children die tragically every day while very bad people live long lives hurting as many people as they can. In principle, America is the land of equality, but we all know people who get jobs or better pay over others because they are black or white or a man or a woman or handicapped or pleasant looking or because they have connections, or because they are loud and pushy. This isn’t a case of the grass is greener on the other side…. It’s just true that life really isn’t fair.

That’s why I’m so glad that God is always fair. But wait! That’s not true. God isn’t fair either. Jesus tells us so in the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Jesus tells us that a landowner goes out in the morning and hires some workers telling them he will pay them a denarius for the day. They agree and start working. This guy goes out several more times during the day (the last time being just an hour before quitting time) and hires more workers. Then when the day is over, he pays his workers, starting with the last hired. He gives them all a denarius. When he gets to the workers hired first thing in the morning, they are all excited thinking if the guys who worked only one hour got a denarius then they are going to be rolling in the money. (Maybe they will get that new cart they’ve been looking at—like the one their brother-in-law got last month.) As they are each handed one denarius, they cry out in outrage – THAT’S NOT FAIR!!!!  We worked ALL day in the HOT, hot sun and they only worked one hour in the cool of the evening and they got the same pay we did. And the landowner (God) said, “Who said I was going to be fair?! Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? What I do with my money is my business and if I decide to be generous to those hired last, what’s that to you?”

And let’s not forget exactly who Jesus hung out with and blessed with miracles of healing and forgiveness. It wasn’t the righteous, temple-going, Torah-reading, tithing, more-deserving-than-the-unmoral-masses-because-they-follow-all-the-rules, upstanding church members otherwise known as Pharisees and Sadducees. No, Jesus hung out with the undeserving, social outcasts and sinners. While the church people refused to touch, talk with, or even be seen on the same side of the street as these undesirables, Jesus partied with them. He put his arm around them as they walked down the street. And when we listen in on their conversations, we don’t hear Jesus condemning them to hell or even uttering condescending remarks about their sinful ways sending them to hell if they don’t say the sinner’s prayer. Rather we hear Jesus offering love, hope, and grace to these miserable sinners. And when does Jesus offer these incredible, undeserved gifts? Is it after they say they are sorry and ask for forgiveness or before? Take a look at the conversations he has with the Pharisees.  Do you see love, hope and grace or condemnation for the way they take it upon themselves to decide who is worthy and who isn’t?

If we all got what we deserve, we would all be hopeless. Even the most deserving “saint” falls way short of God’s perfect holiness. It’s because God isn’t fair, because he is love, that Jesus took our place in condemnation and punishment on the cross and overcame death so that nothing but my own willfulness could come between an eternal relationship between me and him.  I am so very grateful God isn’t fair.

1 comment:

Audrey said...

Great post Maureen. This one really made me think. You're right, we have no ground to stand on when we claim "it's not fair"! Throughout our lives, from the sacrifice of his Son until today, God continues to do for us when we haven't done a thing to earn it. Thanks for taking the time to write this and share it.