Sitting in the Saturday evening service, the speaker opened with a question. Introducing his topic he asked, “Is God fair?” No sooner than the words came out of his mouth more than just a few erupted, “NO.” The unexpected response caused some to burst into laughter. It caught the speaker a bit off guard too. Reshaping his question several times, he tried to redirect looking for a desired answer. “So, are we saying that God is not fair?” Several dozen people continued, “Yes, God is unfair!” Some in the church service that night possessed a view of God as unjust, unfair, and unkind. The pastor recovered, and continued with his message.
Having returned from Haiti a few months ago, seeing immense suffering, it leaves one a bit perplexed. How in just a 1 1/2 hour flight from Miami can a people exist in such incredible need & suffering? The purpose of my trip was to teach on Conflict Management in the State University in Cap-Haitien, and on Leadership Development at Christian University of the North. But, when helping at a clinic, well . . . let’s just stay in all my years, the suffering matched the worse I saw in South Africa. One team member even commented, “It all seems so unfair? Why does God allow this?”
Having lived in South Africa more than twenty years, my observations were not that of a novice. An old question returned to me, “Why such suffering, lacking, and need?” Why?”While this subject is written about often, I offer just a few probing thoughts.
Unfair at its core, is Subjective. What exactly does it mean to be fair? One person judges their lot in life “unfair” because one is not where one wants to be in life. Another defines fairness by comparing what they possess or do not possess in comparison to someone else. “Fair” becomes a rather nebulous word lacking substance apart from comparison. Its defining and clarification come by personal perspective, experience, and association.
“Unfair” is often narrowly focused. Once an individual shared with me, “God is so unfair!””Why do you say that?” I replied. His answer, “I should be making more money for what I do! I deserve more!” Gently I pressed, “How much do you make?” After looking at his gross salary, benefits, retirement, and vacation, we estimated he earned around $70,000.00 per year. “So, do you know that your income is in the top 1.5% of the world?” I asked. He appeared shocked, “Well, ah no . . . not really.” “So, now what do you think the other 98% of the world feels since you earn more than they do? Is this fair or unfair?” His reply, “Well, I guess I don’t know.”
“Unfair” is Self-Defining. Almost every thought I’ve ever possessed about what is fair or unfair, is defined by me, in me, and through me. See, I think Me becomes the standard for all that is deemed fair or unfair. Me makes those judgments, assumptions, and assertions. Yet, me possess limited knowledge and understanding of the complexities of life. Me simply does not see the whole picture, ever!
Once I shared a video of our family ice fishing in Northern, Minnesota with Zulu leaders from our churches in South Africa. One very old Zulu gentleman exclaimed, “Oh, those people suffer terribly having to acquire their food in such a manner.” Ah, hum . . . perspective.
Blaming God is Easy. Here’s the thing, God gets blamed for just about everything. I choose to let God speak for himself on this subject. Perhaps, one day God will clarify in some manner or another all the unfairness in this tired old place. Maybe God will speak on this issue. Until then, perhaps a more obvious place to look exists.
So, Who is Responsible for Unfair? My many travels to third world countries witnesses incredible “unfairness.” If one truly searches for an answer on this subject, the truth may not be that far away. Maybe it blatantly looks us straight in the eye.
Shouldn’t corrupt governments take some responsibility? While many leaders live in opulent luxury, their people die in the most appalling conditions. It seems that no matter how much money governments collect, very few things improve for the average person on the ground. The nebulous term “government” depersonalizes responsibility for injustice and unfairness.
Shouldn’t war & armed conflict take blame for a lot of this world’s unfairness? The most expensive thing happening is in this world today is armed conflict. You see, when two parties disagree they often enter into war. After both sides pretty much destroy each other’s infrastructure, economies, and leaving millions dead they find enlightenment. At the end, when everything is pretty much ruined, they sign a peace treaty and make up. Too bad this doesn’t occur in the first place. There’s always money for weapons and war! But, there’s never quite enough to feed the starving children of this world, cure the deadliest disease, or educate the under privileged. Who’s unfair here?
And, what about religion? A whole lot of conflict, killing, and death takes place in the name of religion. There always seems to be a group willing to kill, torture, maltreat, and harm others in the name of some deity. Maybe religion need confess its unfairness too?
Who bears the blame for the unfairness of poverty? A Forbes report showed that the average American CEO makes 331 times that of the average American worker, and 774 times more than a minimum wage earner! This is the stuff that lords and serfs, rulers and peasants were made of a thousand years ago. And, I guess, probably the average American CEO earns thousands of times that of the average person living in a 3rd world country. Is it any wonder so much discontent exists in this world today when commoners see living standards multiple thousands of times beyond anything they could ever dream? Thank goodness there are some great examples of charitable billionaires out there!
And, what about parent’s responsibility for unfairness too? It’s one of my privileges to know some amazing foster parents. They care for abused, injured children. Some are born drug dependent. Others bear scars of incredible abuses. What’s unfair to these precious children is their parents! If parents took more responsibility for the care, nurturing, and upbringing of their children, this world might be a fairer place.
Who is responsible for crime’s unfairness? Is it just poverty? What about uncontrolled actions, forbidden compulsions, or other causes fueling unfairness? What about the face of unfairness violently taking a person’s life on the other end of a gun? Or, the face of unfairness stripping away a child’s innocence wounding that child for life?
So, here’s the big question I wrestle with regularly? How much “unfairness” is actually self-inflicted? Who is actually responsible for what is fair & unfair?Perhaps the best place to look for fairness is first within ourselves. What’s really unfair about this world is perhaps more about me, you, and us. Maybe it’s not that much about God after all.
Is it God . . .Us . . .You . . . or Me? You see, I can do something about me. You can do something about you. And maybe in this way we can do something about us. In love, God spoke through His Son Jesus seeking fairness for all of us all. Jesus simply said, “Love God with everything you are, and love (treat) people in the same manner that you treat yourself.”
Think what a world this place might become, if we all committed ourselves to such an ideal? How fair could that indeed be?
Just My Thoughts,