That’s Not Fair! (Thank God it’s not!)

The other night as I was cleaning up from supper Roman started to get into the freezer to help himself to ice-cream. “No ice-cream!” I said. “You can’t have ice-cream every night after supper.”

–to which Roman automatically responded, “What? That’s not fair!”

Before I could come up with a response, Marshall, passing through the kitchen at just that moment exclaimed, “Roman, when are you going to figure our that you don’t want fair!” –end of discussion and I don’t even have to say anything! Thank God for wise older brothers.

While this interchange brought a smile to my lips and heart, it has also given me pause to ponder my own ideas and expectations about fairness. Why is it that when something doesn’t work the way we want, our knee-jerk reaction is to demand “fair”?  I am reminded of Charlie Brown’s little sister, Sally, in the famous Peanuts’ Christmas proclaiming quite insistently, “All I want is what I’ve got coming to me; all I want is my fair share.”  If she had only realized what she was actually asking for with that impertinent claim! Her idea is not unlike ours–a certain amount of something good is going around and I deserve a portion of it that is at least equal if not greater than that portion my neighbor receives.

Have you ever seen the kid at a birthday party with the bigger piece of cake whining, “Hey, no fair, she got a smaller piece of cake than me?” Of course not–unless, of course, he is doing it in jest–because the one with the larger piece doesn’t need to “fight for a fair share.” As a matter of fact he is the one that doesn’t want fair, because that would mean taking a thin slice of his and putting it on the plate of the other child’s in order to even things out.  We are  limited in our ideas of fair because we see it as pertaining to things that have to be distributed among us. In other words there is a limited quantity of some good thing and everyone has to get a piece out of that limit.

But–and here’s where things get amazing–our God is one of extravagance. His idea of fair doesn’t revolve around a limited quantity to be evenly distributed. Rather God in his extravagance is interested in satisfying justice so that we can become recipients of an extremely lavish reward, limitless in scope and expansive beyond this life. What we deserve in all fairness is death–eternal separation from God. (Romans 3:23 and 6:23) Our wage–or paycheck–for the sin we commit is death. That is what we’ve earned. We deserve nothing more. So in all fairness, that is what we should get. But instead, God took that wage and put it on Christ. So that “the gift of God is eternal life!” It is not what we deserve. It is not the fair recompense for our work. It is extremely unfair! Isaiah 53 makes it clear that Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf was incredibly unfair–he was bruised for our transgressions, beaten for our evil deeds, and he received the lashes that heal us!  But it was God’s justice. How is it that by God’s justice, the unfairness of the cross becomes the gift of eternal life for me? Stuart Townend says in his famous hymn, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, “Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer. ” The unfairness of the gospel is exactly what makes it so winsome!

Marshall’s right–I don’t want fair. I don’t ever want fair. I want lavish. I want gift. I want the reward of Christ put to my account. And because of God’s amazing, extravagant, unfair love, that’s exactly what I get.


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