It’s a question that recently came up among some friends, causing a bit of debate. While there may be some contention over the way this question is answered, it is an important question to answer because it deals with who God is; for, as A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
The question that first needs to be answered, is what do we mean by ‘fair’? Is fairness the same thing as justice? Because the Bible clearly states that God is just (1 Thess. 1:6), and that he calls his people to bring about justice (Amos 5:17). I do not think that fairness and justice are the same, though the justice of God is a difficult question as well, in view of his mercy and grace. Fairness, as seems to be our conception, is that everyone equally receives what they deserve.
Based upon this definition, it is abundantly clear that God is not ‘fair.’ Out of all the possible examples that can be used to show God’s un-fairness, the greatest and clearest is the grace and mercy he gives to us through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Romans states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23a). Because of our sinful nature, mankind is separated from God, and all deserve death; “for the wages of sin are death” (Romans 6:23a). The ‘fair’ thing, therefore, would be that every human being die, both mortally and eternally.
This, praise God, is not the case. When Christ was made incarnate among us, he inaugurated the Kingdom of God here on earth, a kingdom that is defined by mercy and grace. For, though “the wages of sin are death, the gift of God is eternal life” (Romans 6:23). Through Christ’s death on the cross, God has offered us grace, and it is not fair. No one can say this is fair, especially when you include the fact that this is a free gift from God, not one that can be bought by money, the right words, the salient sacrifices, nor good works. The person does nothing to merit God’s grace – he offers it freely to all who would accept. Consequently, a man who has done great evil, yet surrenders to the grace of God, will be ushered into the Kingdom. However, a man who does good all his life, yet refuses to surrender to the grace of God, will not. This, by our standards is not ‘fair.’
I think this is a part of why Paul wrote that the Christ we preach is “a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to the Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23). Grace and mercy don’t make sense to us. The idea that we should receive something we have done nothing to merit is incredibly foreign to us. I can see it all around me, and even in myself. I still try to earn God’s grace, even though I know I can do nothing to do that. I try so hard to live a good life, to do the right things, think the right things, and say the right things, instead of resting in the grace of God and allowing him to transform my life. We so often want to be perfect before we come to God, when he really wants us as we are, so He can work in us the perfection toward which we are called.
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise” (1 Cor. 1:27a). Our wisdom is not applicable here: though grace and mercy may not make much sense to us, this is the wisdom of God. Maybe, what we really need is to actually accept that, fully and completely. Perhaps, if you and I stopped trying to be good enough to earn God’s grace, we could rest in it long enough to allow Him to shape our hearts and transform our lives.