My 3-year-old daughter grabbed ahold of this phrase and incorporated it into her bed time routine. She had to remind Mommy before she fell asleep every single night that life is NOT fair. She started doing this faithfully about 5 months ago. There were a couple of nights that she forgot to tell me this ever important truth and she would burst into tears calling me to come back into her room.
“What’s the matter, Baby?” I would ask.
“Mommy, life isn’t fair!” She would loudly and proudly declare through her tears.
“You’re right, life isn’t fair. Goodnight, go to sleep.” I would respond as she snuggled down to sleep.
Sigh. If only she knew how true those words are… Bless her little innocent heart, she doesn’t have a clue. She knows that her siblings complain when they don’t get what they want and that when they say “It isn’t fair,” Mommy answers, “Life is not fair. Even when you think it’s fair, it is unfair to someone else.”
You’ve heard it all before:
“He gets to do such and such, why can’t I?”
“Why can’t I eat that?” or “Why do I have to eat this?”
“So-and-so has more (Insert anything here!) than I do!”
“So-and-so can do that better than me….”
You all know that is just a sample of the Life’s-Not-Fair complaint list. It is not just a list that our children have. We all have these “unfair” thoughts float through our minds from time to time. It is part of our human nature to desire to be treated “fairly” or to receive our “fair” portion, as we see it.
Jesus, knowing this weakness of our human hearts, reminded us in the Parable of the Vineyard Workers that we do not need to complain when life seems unfair. The owner of the vineyard had gone out in the early morning and hired workers to work for a day’s wage. They agreed and went to the field and worked. Four more times throughout the day the owner hired more workers, telling them that he would pay them a fair wage. The last group he hired only worked for one hour. When the work day was done, he had the workmen paid in the opposite order he had hired them. When the ones he had hired first saw that the workers who only worked for one hour received a full day’s wage they knew they should be getting a bonus. However, we know that is not what happened. The owner paid them the agreed upon wage, nothing more. Was that fair? Shouldn’t they have received extra? Just like we would do, they complained.
“He answered one of them, ‘Friend, I haven’t been unfair! Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go. I wanted to pay this last worker the same as you. Is it against the law for me to do what I want with my money? Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ “ (Matthew 20:13-26)
Should you be jealous because I am kind to others? Wow. That puts a whole new perspective on the old commandment, “Thou shalt not covet…” Rephrased, God is saying, “Be content with what you have. I have given you all you need and will keep my word. Trust in my promises and be content in every situation.” In every situation… Be content.
Paul tried to teach the Philippians about this. He told them that he had learned to be content when he had plenty or when he was in need. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil. 4:13) That is the secret. How can we be content when life seems unfair? Only through Him who gives us strength! By my own will and power alone, I will fail. I must have His strength.
It is through Jesus alone that we can live a life untouched by the unfairness around us. Jesus, our example. Jesus, the one who loves us with unconditional everlasting love. Jesus, the son of God. Jesus was willing to experience the most extreme case of unfairness. It was not, is not, and never will be fair that He took our sins upon Him and died the death that we deserve in order to give us the life that He deserved. Jesus.
Before He was betrayed, when He knew what was coming, Jesus pleaded with His Father, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) and then He trusted His Father to know what was best and what needed to be done for love’s sake. He clung to the promises of old as he faced the unfair punishment of a sinful world.
He did it. Jesus experienced that life, here on planet earth, is not fair. He did it. You and I can do it too. Though “My soul is weary with sorrow; [I will pray for You to] strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:28) Because I know “the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
As Jesus walked each step to Calvary, it was the strength He received from trusting His Father that allowed Him to put the next foot forward. As I walk this life that is NOT fair, I will rely on His strength to put my next foot forward. I will trust Him to keep His word and know that He has always provided what I need, and He will continue to do so.
And, though I may shed a tear, the next time my sweet and precious three-year-old, who is now facing a terminal diagnosis, reminds me that life is NOT fair, I will smile at her, hug her, and agree. It never has been fair, it never will be fair. And I am thankful for the hope that unfairness has given me.