How do we face the unfairness of it all?

God told Adam and Eve to steer clear of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and we’ve learnt since why. Because if we judge everything according to whether it’s good or bad, right or wrong, moral or immoral, just or unjust, we inevitably end up with a bitter feeling about the unfairness of life.

Because good people suffer, greedy employers exploit their workers, bullies rise to the top of a business, or a church, or a school classroom, innocent children die in car crashes or suffer abuse by priests, criminals get to write their memoirs and make millions, and Grandma leaves her fortune to a shelter for cats. It’s all so unfair. It’s not right. And when things are not right or not fair we don’t like it.

Animals and birds don’t get upset by these things but we do, because in our minds everything comes down to Good and Evil. Everything we do, from the time we can make choices, is governed by whether it’s Right or Wrong. And we inevitably end up blaming God, because how can a God of Goodness allow Bad things to happen to people? Why does he allow massive natural disasters, serial killers, and terrible accidents? Why let a family lose its breadwinner, or a child to die prematurely? Why let bad-living families soak the welfare system and get away with it? Why let Christians be killed, and the killers go free? But if we’re going to judge everything by its Rightness or Wrongness then all these questions can really bother us, even to rejecting God entirely.

But God did tell us to steer clear of the Tree of Deciding what’s Fair and Unfair, or judging everything by whether it’s Good or Evil, because he said it would be the death of us. And here we are now as proof of it, because it eats us up inside seeing the unfairness of a world that allows evil people to prevail, that favours some but not others with looks, money and personality, and lets us die just when we’re becoming wise and helpful.

So what’s the alternative? Well, God made that clear too. It’s trusting him. But that’s so difficult to do, isn’t it, when God doesn’t stop unfairness? But who else can we turn to for answers? Job turned to God, but Adam and Eve didn’t. For the life of him Job couldn’t understand why he was suffering so unfairly, but he never turned his back on God. That’s how he faced the unfairness of it all, and God got him through it.

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When God seems unfair

In the book of Job Satan appears before God like a prosecutor in a court case, along with his demon angels as witnesses. But Satan isn’t charging Job with anything; he’s hoping instead to get Job to charge GOD for inflicting needless suffering and for not dealing fairly.

God gets it in the ear today too, for letting people die needlessly and undeservedly in natural disasters and senseless killings. He’s blamed for good people dying prematurely and evil people getting away with murder. And what about all those good Christians who suffer terribly too, from persecution, accidents, financial ruin, destructive gossip, rejection by their family, bullying at work, and loneliness? Worse still, why does God let some Christians lead charmed lives, with their happy, successful children, good jobs, great retirement packages and excellent health, while other Christians have to hobble through life with all kinds of aches and pains, insecure jobs, endless debts, cars breaking down, marriages breaking up, children going nowhere, and working parents spending long periods away from home?

It all seems so unfair, which is exactly what Satan hoped Job would think – which Job did: “I am innocent, but God has denied me justice,” he cried (Job 34:5). God wasn’t being fair at all, and Job wanted to know why. If only God would explain himself.

But God doesn’t explain himself. He simply says, “I know a whole lot more than you do, Job. I know things you could never discover for yourself. I was there when this planet was formed, and I know every detail about anything you’ve ever wondered about. You may not understand what I’m doing, therefore, but I do.” It’s like dealing with a child who feels his parents are not treating him fairly. The parents only have to ask, “Do you know more than we do?” Obviously not. “So why, my child, are you acting as if you do?”

And when Job realized he too had acted as if he knew more about life than God did, it deflated him. God was on the hilltop with a much better view of things than Job had, just as parents have a much bigger picture of what’s best for their child, and when that realization dawns, hopefully trust follows.

God did not condemn Job for thinking him unfair, nor did he defend himself to Job either. There was no point, just as parents realize it’s pointless trying to explain their actions to a child who, at his age, would not understand. So when things seem unfair, it still comes down to, “Trust me, son, I know what I’m doing, and one day so will you.”

Why should one man’s sin wreck things for all of us?

The monster within us, this sinful nature we’ve got that has us completely captive to “sin and death,” was in for a shock when God sent Jesus.

Up to that moment, it had complete freedom to do whatever it wanted with us, because anything we threw at it was useless. Our determination to obey God’s law, for instance, only gave our sinful nature more ammunition to condemn us, because all the law did was show us, to our embarrassment, just how many laws we were breaking, and our powerlessness to keep them all. Our efforts were no more effective than shooting paintballs at a tank. The law, even God’s law, had no impact on our sinful nature whatsoever. It rolled on regardless, without a dent in sight. It was unstoppable.

Until, that is, God sent Jesus to be a “sin offering,” Romans 8:3, the effect of which must have startled our sinful nature as it frolicked away inside our heads, because Jesus’ sin offering “condemned sin in sinful man.” It was like a massive great fly swat swishing out of nowhere, whacking our sinful nature to the wall. But how was Jesus able to do that for everybody? How was he able to get inside everyone’s head with the fly swat, hunt down the monster and destroy it?

Paul explains how in Romans 5:12, 19 – “Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man…so also through the obedience of one man the many will be made righteous.” Since sin came into the world by one man, it can also be destroyed by one man. So, anyone saying it wasn’t fair that Adam’s sin condemned us all, would also have to say it’s not fair that Jesus’ sacrifice saved us all, too. But God is fair, because in both cases it’s one for one: “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” verse 15.  

“Consequently,” verse 18, “just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” Jesus’ sin offering covers everyone who ever sinned since Adam. The power of sin, that gave our sinful nature control over us, has been broken. Neither it, nor the law, can condemn us any longer, Romans 8:1.

So what’s not fair about one man’s sin wrecking things for all of us, when one man’s righteousness put things right for us too?