If there was such a thing as the “fairness police,” my children would be prime candidates for a place on the force. Every real and perceived injustice in this house is met with protests of, “It’s not fair!” They see to it that I am well aware of any inconsistencies in my parenting. “Hey, when I did that, you made me copy the fourth commandment! How come he doesn’t have to do that? No fair!” Any parent of multiple children probably knows exactly what I’m talking about. Kids seem to constantly have their radars on looking for unfairness. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. I am “unfair” in that I don’t treat my kids all the same.
Now, before you go crying foul on me, please be assured that I dearly love each of my children, and I don’t treat them differently because I love one more than another. I treat them differently because they are different ages, have different levels of maturity, and each has his or her own unique personality. Let me illustrate. When my two-year old proudly comes out of the bathroom and announces that she went potty all by herself, you’d better believe I’ll be dancing around and giving her high fives. Would I do the same thing for my 10-year old? Hardly. Or consider the games I play with my kids. My five-year old loves the Clifford board game she got for her birthday, but I wouldn’t play that with my older boys. I’d play Monopoly or Clue with them because they understand those games and get the strategy behind them, whereas my 5-year old wouldn’t get those thinking games quite yet. I talk differently to my two-year old than I do to my older kids. I discipline them differently, based upon their ages. They all have different chores around the house. As they get older, kids should be given more responsibility. But at the same time, they also gain more independence and freedom. My boys have a fair amount of freedom in where they can go on their bikes and how long they can be outside on their own. Would I let my toddler roam the neighborhood for an hour alone? Definitely not. With age comes more responsibility as well as freedom, and wise parents dole these things out accordingly. As our kids get older, we treat them differently.
Personality determines how we treat kids as well. The stronger form of discipline necessary for a strong-willed child will crush the spirit of an overly sensitive child. On the flip side, a sensitive child might only need a parent to say, “That’s not a good choice, honey,” and the tears will well up because she knows she’s disappointed her parents. But a strong-willed child would shrug off such a meek statement and it would make no difference at all. Children have to be treated differently, but the goal is the same- parents do the best they can to ensure that their children grow up to be responsible and caring individuals who can function well in society. We’re shaping them for a future they can’t even imagine, and not just for their own sake, but for the sake of those with whom they will come into contact- future spouses, employers, etc.
So if we as adults can understand this concept, why do we expect God to treat His children all the same? If my 10-year old were to say to me, “It’s not fair that you give her an M & M every time she goes to the bathroom. Why don’t I get one?” I would roll my eyes. It’s not even a fair comparison. But don’t we often do the same thing to God? Gee, God, how come Johnny has such a great career with a great salary while I’m struggling to make ends meet in a job I hate? It’s not fair! See, we can play the comparison game as well.
Consider an analogy that Paul uses quite a bit- the body. He compares the body of Christ to a physical body multiple times throughout his letters. See, for example, Romans 12:4-5, Ephesians 4:16, Ephesians 5:30, Colossians 3:15, and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. In Romans and 1 Corinthians he makes this analogy for spiritual gifts, showing that all different kinds are needed, just as many parts are necessary for the function of a physical body. Already, we can see that God treats us differently. God doesn’t give us all the same abilities and gifts. How boring would that be? Paul makes the analogy of a foot complaining that it is not a hand, or an ear complaining that it is not an eye. Even if your place in the body seems less glamorous than another, your part is needed and valued. Think about your feet. Chances are, they take a lot of wear and tear. They may have blisters or callouses. They can’t do dexterous things like your hands can- playing the piano, painting pictures, typing a blog. To all appearances, they’re kind of…well, plain. Functional. They’re made to take more abuse than most other parts of the body, but they play a vital role. Without them, we’d have an awfully hard time getting around.
God has placed you where you are and given you specific talents and abilities for a reason. When you compare yourself to others, you might be tempted to believe that God has given you fewer gifts, a harder lot in life, etc. But God works through His people in different ways. Yes, He treats us differently, because this world is made up of different people in different walks of life with different personalities and different hardships and talents and weaknesses. Yet somehow God orchestrates all of that to work for His purposes- He’s readying all believers for a future we can’t even imagine, and in the meantime He’s shaping us and using us to reach those around us. Sometimes that means an “easy” life, and other times that requires one of great hardship. Accept your place in the body and don’t worry about whether or not God is “unfair” in His treatment of you. Ultimately, yes, God is unfair to us. Placing the punishment we deserved upon the perfect shoulders of Jesus wasn’t fair at all. We don’t deserve heaven in any way, shape, or form. But Jesus wholeheartedly agreed with this unfair plan for your sake. Whatever your lot in this earthly life, your future in heaven is secured. That’s all that matters in the end. Thank God for His unfairness.