“It’s not FAIR!” If you have parented for very long (and especially if you have more than one child), you have probably heard these words many times. There is something in all of us that wants life to be fair – especially in our favor. Your kids are no exception. They expect their parents to be fair and as they get older they will be somewhat dismayed that God does things they don’t consider fair either.
Fairness is a very difficult concept to explain to children. It does seem “fair” that good always wins, bad always loses, good things happen only to “good” people and bad things happen to “bad” people. How do you explain to your kids, (especially when they get to be teens) that God doesn’t promise fairness (in that sense) and that’s okay?
There are some basic principles your kids need to understand as you have these discussions about fairness and God. Most can be introduced even to young children and then expanded upon as your kids reach their teens.
- Fairness doesn’t mean what your kids think it means. The world will make your kids believe fairness means everyone gets equal amounts of something good or that good things always happen to “good” people and bad things always happen to “bad” people. The actual definition is that someone who is fair makes judgments that are free of discrimination. In our spiritual context this means when God judges us, He doesn’t care what color our skin is, where we lived or how much money we had…He will judge us on our hearts, our actions and our response to His love and commands. (That’s why being a Christian is so important.)
- We live in a fallen, sinful world. Sin touches the fairness (in the world’s definition of fairness) discussion in two ways. First, everyone (except Jesus of course) has sinned. In the eyes of God, any sin makes us unclean and unable to be in His Presence, hence the need for Jesus and baptism. In the strictest sense of the word, we are all “bad” people. Secondly, when people sin, fairness is often thrown off balance. When someone stuffs the ballot box, the “fair” winner may lose because of the ballot stuffer’s sin.
- God tells us life will NOT be fair (world’s definition). “Then you will be children of your Father who is in heaven. He causes his sun to shine on evil people and good people. He sends rain on those who do right and those who don’t.” Matthew 5:45 (NIrV) Interestingly, this verse is a part of the Sermon on the Mount in a section about loving your enemies. God is fair in that He loves us all, wants all of us to follow Him and become faithful Christians who spend eternity in Heaven. Even those who have declared themselves His enemies. The world, however, will tell your children God is not fair or he would deny evil people sun and rain.
- Jesus wasn’t fair (world’s definition). If you define fairness as treating everyone equally, Jesus didn’t exhibit a lot of fairness while on earth. He chose only twelve men to be his Apostles out of the who knows how many people who regularly followed him around (at least 72). He had favorites even amongst the Apostles and gave Peter, James and John experiences and attention the others didn’t appear to get. The Bible lets us know John was perhaps the favorite of Jesus. He asked John, the Apostle he loved, to care for his mother, Mary. The personal ministry and teaching of Jesus only happened in part of the known world. There are plenty of other examples, but Jesus didn’t appear to be concerned about the world’s definition of fairness.
- God (and Jesus) are concerned about justice and fairness. Once again, the dictionary definitions of these terms are much different from how most people think of them. God never promises us everyone will have equal material goods or gifts from Him. He does promise us He will be fair when He judges us and look at our hearts and actions, not superficial things. He promises there will be justice on the Day of Judgment for those who have rejected Him and broken His commands. We have evidence God uses earthly consequences at times to give a bit of earthly justice to those who are disobeying Him. He promises us though not to worry whether or not justice happens now, because He will bring justice in the end to everyone. (Romans 12:19, Deuteronomy 32:35)
- We should be thankful God is not fair. If God were totally fair in the world’s sense of the word, we would all be in a lot of trouble. God loved us enough though to provide a way to have our sins erased by the blood of Jesus. (Remember, the wages of sin is death? Romans 6:23)
- We need to focus on using what God did give us instead of worrying about what He didn’t give us. If you think about it, Satan’s lie to Eve in part revolved around the concept of God not being “fair” to Adam and Eve. (Genesis 3:5) The gist of that part of his speech was something like “God’s not being “fair” to you. He doesn’t want you to have everything He has so you can’t be equal to Him.” We, like Eve, can become so focused on the gifts God didn’t give us, we forget to use the ones He did give us. Make sure your kids understand the parables of the talents really well. (Matthew 25:14-30, Luke 19:12-28) The parables don’t say anything about the fact the servants were given different amounts. The two servants who used what they were given productively were rewarded and the one who didn’t was punished. Teach your kids to keep focused “on their own page” and find ways to use what God has given them. Worrying about fairness will only increase the chances they will neglect to use what they have and end up losing it like the unfaithful servant in the parable.
Taking the time to explain fairness to your kids will help remove a potential stumbling block in their way. They need to not be swayed by those who cry out God should not be worshipped because He isn’t fair. It is worth taking the time and effort to help them build a strong biblical foundation in the areas of fairness and justice.