Imagine, if you will, that you had a sibling, a brother or sister — a twin, let’s say. Perhaps you don’t have to imagine too hard and this reality is all too real. But you and your sibling get along usually well, save for the occasional scuffle or two. One day, your mother calls you both in from rough-housing outside, coaxing you with ice cream. This works like a charm and the both of you sprint to the door, wanting to be the first to the prize. Once inside, your mom sits you down at the kitchen table and begins to dish out the delicious dessert. She sets the bowls of ice cream down in front of you and you immediately notice that something’s not right: your twin has more. You’ve been given only two scoops whereas your twin brother or sister has been lavished with four! This is not right, you think, I deserve that ice cream, I’m the better one; that should be mine! The seeming injustice has you seething, boiling over and you slam your fist on the table. And pointing to the discrepancy, shout, “That’s not fair!”
A perpetually short straw.
Just reading this scenario makes the fairness radar go berserk, doesn’t it? How could this mother cause such a rift between these two siblings? Doesn’t the Bible say something about not stirring up your son to wrath or something like that? What spurred her to ration the portion for one and not the other? That really isn’t fair. And without realizing it, we often practice this same rationale with our relationship with God.
Whether it’s seeing unsaved people prosper and succeed at everything they do, or fellow-Christians get all the opportunities, accolades, and limelight, sometimes it just seems as if you’re always dealt short. Why? Why would God let his chosen people suffer and struggle and endure such travesties while those who are in love with debauchery and depravity thrive and find abundant success? Why would the believers in Christ be subjected to such affliction and, sometimes, poverty, while others enjoy extravagance? Why God? Why am I thirty and not married? Why didn’t you make me prettier? Why didn’t you make me more athletic? Why didn’t you make me smarter? Why God? This isn’t fair! Once those words have gone heavenward we stand on dangerous ground.
The treachery of divine fairness.
Let me dispel this reasoning for you: You don’t want God to be fair. You cry out for fairness and justice, but if God were to deal with you fairly, you’d already be burning forever in the flames of hell because of your sin. If God were to dole out only what you deserve, none of us would be here. His holiness would envelope creation in an unrelenting fire, burning all impurities. Pleading for God’s fairness is a cry to die the eternal death. God’s fairness and justice stand on the pillars of righteousness, holiness, and truth. There’s no grace there. And, thus, our fate is sealed. God’s fairness spells our doom. You don’t want God to be fair. No, your only hope is for God’s un-fairness.
The Christian’s only hope rests in God dispensing not what you deserve but just the very opposite. Your very life is dependent upon the fact that in his Son, Jesus Christ, God has forever dealt unfairly with you, giving you life when you deserved death, giving you salvation when you deserved damnation. God’s eternal and, indeed, supernal unfairness is the Christian’s hope and life and all!
The beauty of undeserved grace.
So, when you’re tempted to shake your fist at God and shout “That’s not fair!” just remember how God dealt with his own Son as Jesus was bearing the weight of the world’s transgressions. As he hung on that cross and the blackness and darkness of sin came upon him, God turned his face from his own, spurring that solemn cry from the Messiah, “‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mt 27:46) Jesus endured the brunt of God’s undeserved justice so that you and I could enjoy the beauty of his undeserved grace. Praise the Lord for a glorious, gracious unfair God! God the Father can deal with us in righteous unfairness because he dealt with his Son in the same.
He spared not him that he might spare us, — he delivered up him that he might not deliver up us, — he parted with him that he might not part with us, — he gave him up to the curse, that he might obtain for us the blessing, — he poured on him the vials of his infinite wrath, that he might pour out on us the full measure of his infinite love . . . He dealt with him as a sinner, in order that he might deal with us as righteous, — perfectly, yea infinitely righteous. He inflicted on him all that should have been inflicted on us, in order that he might bestow upon us all that should be bestowed on him . . . He does not ask us to pay for it, or to endeavour to deserve it, or to qualify ourselves for receiving it; but just that we should consent to it.1
We can’t do anything to earn or merit this favor, we only must believe in it, trust in it, cleave to it daily, hourly! As you kneel down to pray, recognize God’s infinite and gracious unfairness, enabling you to access the throne of grace with boldness to declare, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24) The gospel of grace is the good news of God the Father dealing with us unfairly, not on the grounds of your mountainous sins but on the merits of Jesus’s momentous grace. Praise be to God that he is not fair!
Horatius Bonar, “No. 22—God’s Unspeakable Gift,” Kelso Tracts (London: James Nisbet & Co., 1851), 3–4.