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.
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?
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Don was born in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having served twenty-two years in South Africa as missionaries with his wife Kathy, and eight years pastoring in the United States, he shares unique perspectives about life, family, relationships, and ministry.