Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Life's Not Fair - Or Is It?

angry child

By Dennis Pollock

One of the phrases that falls from the lips of nearly all children everywhere is: “That’s not fair!” We’ve all said this, and we’ve said it with a great deal of righteous indignation. Even the smallest children have a keen sense of fairness and equity, and when they see something that doesn’t match their sense of propriety, especially when it affects them negatively, they will make their dissatisfaction loudly known.

But there is another aspect of unfairness which is far bigger than these circumstantial annoyances that bug us throughout our lives. This unfairness is much more difficult to swallow, and even Christians are tempted to complain. I am speaking of the particular weaknesses and deficiencies which are genetically and circumstantially conferred upon us at birth. As much as we love to think that we are the masters of our fate, and that through our free will and determination we can make ourselves whatever we like, the truth is that every one of us suffers limitations which we never asked for, voted for, and certainly never desired.

This is not such a big deal for some. Born with terrific personalities, sharp minds, and an innate ability to grasp answers to difficult problems, these blessed men and women tend to do very well in life. Of course, they too, have their weaknesses, but in contrast to their amazing strengths, their smaller weaknesses don’t seem to amount to much. These tend to be the ones who rise to the top of their companies, who make the most money, have the most friends, live in the best houses, drive the nicest cars, and never seem to have to worry about running out of money at the end of the month, the way that most do. Success comes easy to these people; they almost seem to live a favored life with a special blessing that turns everything they touch into gold.

The Average Folks

Next, there are those folks who are more in the middle range of positives and negatives. These people generally lead a pretty good life, but they struggle far more than the first ones. Life doesn’t seem to come so easy for them, but with a lot of struggle and effort they can carve out for themselves pretty nice lives. They typically were born into middle class families, and they will probably never break the bonds of being average. They don’t stand out in any significant way, but they adjust to their station, and tend to get through life without worrying too much about the fact that they have no hope of reaching the top tier of society. Like the first group they had no say in the gifts and lack of gifts that appeared in their lives. They never requested an average intelligence, average looks, a less than sparkling personality, and lower to middle class parents.

In the bottom group are those who do not merely have weaknesses – they have glaring, blatant, painful weaknesses. They are often socially awkward and find it nearly impossible to make friends. They may be slow of mind, or unable to do anything but the simplest tasks. They will never be rich, they will never be hugely successful, and their social life will be nearly non-existent. They often live in the cheapest of housing and drive cars that are one step away from the junk yard. It is these people who will look upon others who are doing so much better in life, and complain, “Why them and not me?” “What have I done to be so cursed with such a sad little life?”

And then there are those who may be blessed with wonderful personalities, great family backgrounds, and an ability to succeed in their careers, and yet experience deep, heart-wrenching tragedies that take their breath away. It may be a woman who greatly loves her husband and then discovers that he has been involved with someone else. Sometimes parents experience the terrible anguish of having to plan funeral services for their children, and with no real explanation as to why this pain has come to them, while so many others do not. Our lives are so very tenuous and there are so many, many disasters, tragedies, and calamities that may come our way with no warning and no apparent reason for them. And when we look around and find that others who may not be as decent or as godly or as hard-working, or as whatever… don’t have to go through what we are going through, we can’t help but feel that somehow, some way life just simply isn’t fair. We never asked for this, we don’t deserve it, and yet here we are suffering excruciating pain or forced to live with glaring deficiencies, and no amount of brainstorming, no measure of heroic effort, no attempts at positive thinking or faith declarations can change our situation.

Unlucky? Or Unblessed?

For the secular man or woman, they ultimately come to believe themselves to be simply unlucky. They didn’t win any prizes in life’s great lottery and are stuck with such drawbacks as to make mediocrity about the best they could hope to attain. Christians tend to see God connected with their lot in life, and yet realize that they cannot possibly blame Him for anything. He is perfect and all He does is right. But why are they always drawing the short end of the stick? No one can answer these questions, of course – not they themselves, nor their friends, nor their pastors, nor any spiritual leaders they may admire. These things are life’s unsolvable riddles, impermeable mysteries, and unanswerable questions.

But while there are no answers for individual specific tragedies or weaknesses, this does not at all mean we must simply nod our heads and declare, “Life surely isn’t fair,” which indirectly suggests that God is not fair. To use Paul’s language, “God forbid!” However, I will admit that if you are simply looking at the puny seventy or eighty years most of us get in this life, we could truthfully say that some people seem to get shortchanged – no doubt about it. But life is a whole lot bigger than our brief time on this earth, and this is what we must see to get over the notion that we’ve been treated unfairly.

Rich and Poor

To see this more clearly let us consider Jesus’ famous parable about the rich man and the beggar Lazarus. Jesus told of a rich man who lived a life of luxury. He wore the best clothes and “fared sumptuously every day.” By the standards of those times, he lived about as high as it was possible to live. He ate well, dressed well, lived well. All the comforts of life were his. In direct contradistinction, we are told about a beggar named Lazarus who lay near the gate of the rich man’s property. The fact that he lay rather than sat indicates that Jesus was suggesting he was lame. He could not work, could not walk, and Jesus tells us that he was hoping to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. His hopes and dreams for his life were few: just to be fed with a few leftover scraps from the rich man’s dinners were the best Lazarus could hope for. We are also told that he was full of sores, entirely sick and diseased, and that the only relief for his pain was that the neighborhood dogs would come and lick his sores.

Comparing the two men, most would call one lucky and the other unlucky. The rich man had all of life’s advantages; the beggar had none. If passersby ever gave thought to the life of the beggar, they might have said to themselves, “I’m glad I am not him.” But then something happened. Actually, it was two somethings. Jesus tells us, “The beggar died,” and then goes on to say, “The rich man also died.” They entered that afterlife which Jesus continually insisted is waiting for every one of us. But they experienced two very different realities. The rich man found himself suffering, in torment and agony, and when he looked across a great gulf he saw his former “neighbor,” the beggar who had laid at his gate. But the beggar was experiencing no torment at all. He looked comfortable, happy, and at ease. The disparity of the two men’s conditions was greater in this new place than it had been while they were on earth. Only now it was the beggar who was doing well, and the rich man who was suffering – far more than the beggar had ever suffered while the dogs were licking his sores.

The rich man called out to Abraham and begged him to send Lazarus over to him with a little water to cool his burning tongue. But there could be no such relief for him. Abraham tells him, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented…” So both men experienced both bad and good times, but the difference was that the rich man’s prosperity and abundance lasted only seventy or eighty years, but Lazarus’ happy state would endure forever. So who was the lucky man? Who should men and women have envied? A rich man who can enjoy his wealth for a few quick decades or a poor but godly man who will enjoy happiness, peace, joy, and abundance for billions and billions of years, and then only be getting started? Was Lazarus treated unfairly? In the long term, not at all. God surely made up for his tears and struggles with everlasting consolations.

Soccer Story

Let’s suppose a soccer coach requires one of his players to wear ten-pound boots during the opening minutes of the match, while every other player is wearing ordinary soccer cleats. This would seem highly unfair. The match will last 90 minutes, and the thought of being able to accomplish anything in those ten-pound boots is ludicrous. He cannot keep up with the other players, he is exhausted after a few minutes, and he knows he will never score a goal or really even be in the game in any significant way. After three minutes of futile efforts to keep up with the others, he is worn out and thoroughly depressed.

Then his coach calls him over to the sidelines and substitutes another player. Our boot wearer is not too keen on his coach for making him wear the boots, but still he remains respectful. The coach tells him to take off his boots, which the man eagerly does. Then the coach gives him a new pair of soccer cleats, but he explains to him that these cleats are magical. They will enable him to run three times as fast as he ever could before and jump three times as high. They will also empower his kicks so that when he kicks the ball it will be sent forth with far greater velocity than his previous kicks. Believing his coach, he gladly puts on the new soccer cleats and is sent back into the game.

How things suddenly change! Now he is outrunning everybody, outkicking everybody, and scoring goals like crazy. By the end of the match he has scored forty-five goals with his magical cleats. He runs to his coach and thanks him again and again for the amazing shoes. Does this man consider himself unlucky or deprived because he spent the first three minutes of the match in ten-pound boots? Not at all. Considering what he was given after those short three minutes, he considers himself the luckiest player on the field. The magical soccer cleats he wore after those three minutes more than made up for his three minutes of “boot-time.” If it took three minutes of shame and struggle in those boots to enable him to wear the shoes for the remaining 87 minutes, it was the bargain of his life!

And so it is with us and our short little seventy, eighty, or ninety years of life on this earth. We may struggle, we may bemoan our weaknesses, we may suffer painful tragedies, we may look at others and wish we could be more like them, but as we consider the incredible eternal destiny we have in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead that we might live with God forever, we can only rejoice. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). And it all comes through Jesus Christ.

We have no grounds for complaint.



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