It’s a lesson I learned early in life–Life’s not fair. I’m the youngest in my family. My older brother and sister got to do things I wasn’t allowed to do because I was too young. I was told when I was older I could do what they could do as well. That didn’t happen. (Of course, I know that they’ll quickly point out things I got to do that they weren’t and how that wasn’t fair…and…well…probably). Honestly, I learned fast that things in life weren’t fair.
And then in 6th grade my English teacher, Mr. Slater, often would say to us when my fellow students would complain: “Sorry, life’s not fair.” He’d even pretend to play the world’s smallest violin playing the softest saddest song if you kept on saying things weren’t fair.
Life not being fair is a truth that I’ve grown up with. It wasn’t fair that when I was in junior high we didn’t have enough money to buy me new shoes and so I had to keep them together with duct tape until we could buy new ones. It wasn’t fair that I was deemed dumb and lazy in school when in fact I had bad learning disabilities and very dyslexic. It wasn’t fair that I was able to go to community college tuition free because my dad is considered a disabled veteran due to Vietnam. It wasn’t fair to others that when I went away to Calvin College I received extra support financially from the government due to my dad’s status. In fact, I kept it quiet because there were some people who found out and were very upset that I received that benefit.
Life’s not fair.
I’ve been on both ends of this argument and I have one thing to say: Deal.
Too many times people say the word fairness but in fact they mean equal. They confuse equal with fairness. And people keep calling out for fairness
When we say fair we think that it means that all things should be on the same playing field. That fairness means treating everyone the same. But that’s not fairness, that’s equality. Equality means that we’re all equal in number, status, and treatment. I am a firm believer in equal pay for equal work for women and minorities. The same money for the same job is very equitable.
Fairness is different. Fairness is not showing partiality but instead being honest and treating each situation as needed in an impartial way. Fairness sees that each person is different and in order to be treated impartially they must then be treated in a way that helps them be raised up to where they can be at the same level.
In other words you can see it this way: Equal means leveling the playing field, fairness is treating people impartially based upon their situation.
Now, this might seem like I’m contradicting myself. But I’ll say it again: Life’s not fair.
Why do I say that?
Because we live in a messed up world where even when we try to treat everyone how they should be treated, that doesn’t happen.
And the most equal yet unfair person in history is Jesus.
Yep, I said it.
Many people like Jesus. He’s a great teacher. He emphasized love and acceptance. Many say that he fought for social justice. Many people say how he was a political radical. A lot of people like who Jesus is. That is, until you get to his words such as
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to Father except through me.” John 14:6
“Enter through the narrow gate…small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
or we read in other places
“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
That’s just not fair. It’s not fair that some people get to have eternal life but others don’t. Good people are somehow destined to go to Hell just because they refuse to believe in Jesus? Not fair.
Yep. It ain’t. But it’s equal.
You see, Jesus offers this weird inclusive exclusiveness. In other words, everyone is on the same playing field. Everyone is offered the exact same thing. But it is only good for those who are wiling to move forward and take what is offered. All are welcomed. All are invited. In the Gospels, yes, Jesus did berate and attack the Pharisees and teachers of the Law over who they acted. And yes, Jesus ate with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. But he also ate with Pharisees. He offered the same grace and love to all people across the spectrum. But only those who were willing to accept this offer were allowed in. Some were sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Others were Pharisees. But only those who accepted what was offered to all were welcomed in.
Life’s not fair. Sorry to burst your bubble. It stinks but it’s the truth. And even Jesus really isn’t fair. At the same time though he is equitable. He offers the same thing to everyone. He offers the same deal whether your early in the game or late in coming (see Matthew 20:1-16). He came for all and will restore all of creation, but only those who come to him are able to enjoy what he offers.
I’ve seen in life that there are many things that aren’t fair. It hurts to hear it. It hurts to say it. We don’t like it. But it’s true. Yet we are able to join into what is offered equally to all. The question this becomes if you’re willing to join in what is offered to all but only a few are willing to join in in doing?