Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "At Even When The Sun Was Set"1 (Lyrics)
Jeremiah 12:1b – Why does the way of the wicked prosper? (NIV 2011)
"It's not fair! She has more than me!" This child's howling cry of injustice is familiar to us. Of course, we know it applies only to ice cream and cake, never to peas and carrots.
Such a complaint may indeed be uttered by a sweet, innocent child, but in truth, it's a hostile accusation against a benevolent provider. The child has charged a parent with unfairness. Being unfair: That's the crime! To be sure, it's not as much about feeling deprived as it is about the other sibling receiving more — more than he or she deserves; in other words, more than me! And that's not fair! (My 9-year-old granddaughter validates this observation. Thanks, Maddie!)
It's no different in Jesus' parable where the younger brother gets more than he deserves, in the eyes of his incensed brother. Jeremiah's complaint isn't much different. "Why does the way of the wicked prosper?" he grumbles. Somehow, the cosmic Benefactor has decreed that the wicked should get a bigger piece of blessing. Meanwhile, Jeremiah hovels in despair and rejection — even as he remains faithful to God. That's not fair!
We struggle with unfairness. It can haunt us. Perhaps a colleague gets the glory for what we did. A sibling gets the inheritance. Big businesses get away with exploitation. And on it goes. Life is not fair, and like the child, our heart cries out for fairness.
Yet, weighing the children's cake to equalize the pieces is as fruitless as trying to achieve perfect equality between people groups. Something will always seem unfair to someone. Besides, fairness is not the ticket to contentment, nor is that the way our heavenly Parent expresses His love.
What if God were actually fair? Well, He would certainly not give the "other guy" more then he deserves; that might satisfy our sense of justice. But what if God were fair with us ourselves? That's another matter, isn't it? If God were truly fair, we'd find ourselves facing the consequences for falling short of the mark. That's judgment. That's fair.
The unmerciful servant in Jesus's parable in Matthew 18:21-35 experienced God's fairness — even by his own standards. Elsewhere, Jesus laid down the principle: "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:2 NIV 2011) The unmerciful servant had condemned his co-worker just after receiving lavish mercy for a much greater debt. In the end, he got what was fair, "because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful." (James 2:13a NIV 2011) That's when God is fair.
Wouldn't you rather live by the law of mercy and experience even the smallest gifts of God's mercy?
Prayer: Lord, even as our hearts yearn for fairness, we humbly acknowledge the many undeserved gifts of mercy which You lavish on us every moment of our lives. Thank You! Amen.