By puberty, most of us give lip service to the truth that “life isn’t fair.” Accepting that it applies to us takes a lot longer. Here are a few true “it’s not fairs” from my own recent life:

  • It’s not fair that I have to jump through extra hoops to get a credit report because the computer lost my password.
  • It’s not fair that the mail was delivered at the last minute and delayed my leaving for an important appointment.
  • It’s not fair that two events that both need my presence were scheduled for the same day 100 miles apart.
  • It’s not fair that my writing clients pay on publication instead of on assignment completion. 

Petty? Well, reasonable enough argument could be made for any of them being unfair in the literal sense. But they pale to transparency next to some of the unfairnesses of this world:

  • It’s not fair that people who don’t love or want children become pregnant. 
  • It’s not fair that kind, loving people are lost to tragic violence.
  • It’s not fair that so many people start life with the disadvantage of a severe disability, poverty, or automatic oppression by the dominant aspect of society.
  • It’s not fair that some people build their wealth and pleasure on the pain of others, feel no remorse, and suffer no disagreeable consequences.

Whether your own problems are as minor as a pen running out of ink at the wrong moment, or as horrible as witnessing your own child’s murder, I’m sure you have been at least tempted to moan, “It’s not fair!” sometime in the past week. If not the past twenty-four hours.

Can something so natural be wrong? Well, not if we merely acknowledge the fact of unfairness and let it go at that. The problem arises when we turn bitter about the truth and decide to fight an unwinnable battle. Demanding that life be fair–and taking it upon ourselves to force it to be–is a sure recipe for eventual depression. Once we’ve worn ourselves out beating our heads against the brick wall of reality, the only alternatives we have left are to accept reality and do what we can with it–or to retreat into a corner of self-pity. And once we’ve programmed our brains to think in terms of “it’s not fair that life isn’t fair,” the latter choice is so much easier. Particularly when our energy is spent to the point where we have little will to consider new options.

And particularly if we’re clinging stubbornly to the idea that we have some special entitlement to a “fairness” in which things always go our way unless we’ve done something obvious to deserve problems. The truth is, we all have a hand in the unfairness that humanity brought on itself by trying to usurp God’s right to define fairness. Was it unfair of God not to share with humanity all the power and privilege He Himself enjoyed? Eve and Adam were talked into believing as much–and that was the start of all tragedy, inequality, frustration, and everything else of which we now rightly cry “Unfair!” Then we turn around and repeat our first parents’ mistake of calling God unfair for not giving us unlimited license to do as we please.

No, life isn’t fair. And to be honest, God isn’t fair. If He were, He would do to all of us what the self-righteous fault Him for not doing to prodigals: give us the bad we deserve instead of the good we don’t deserve. Do we really want life to be so fair that everyone always gets exactly what he deserves? Is it fair for us to assume that we deserve special immunity from hardship?

Think about this: was it fair that a Man Who never did anything wrong was hated for speaking the truth, publicly humiliated, and tortured to death?

And where would we be if God had insisted on fairness there?

Leave a comment


  1. Thanks for this amusing post.

    ‘Fair’ means everybody gets the same good stuff. ‘Just’ means we all (ultimately) get what we deserve. God is just, but nothing in the Bible says He’s expected to be fair.

    • Well, not quite “what we deserve” in the sense of just punishment for not being flawless–thank God! The Cross is where justice and mercy are both satisfied.

      If you mean “what we deserve” in terms of the unrepentant being punished and the redeemed being rewarded according to their deeds, I agree.


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