God isn’t fair (and that’s a good thing)
What you and I need now more than ever is not fairness but forgiveness.
My children are the fairness police in our home–and most violations have to do with snacks. Here’s how it plays out. One child comes to me and asks for an apple or a string cheese or a cookie, and if they get it, what do they do? Immediately, they go into the other room and parade around in front of their siblings. Without fail, one by one each of them comes into the kitchen, “Hey, that’s not fair. She has a cookie. I want one, too!”
Fairness is wanting one standard for everyone. A child’s mind assumes a fair universe: “If one of us gets a cookie, we all get a cookie.” The same standard for every kid. The good news—and bad news depending—is that we do live in a universe governed by absolute fairness. God’s justice is quite fair:
“…since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thess. 1:6-8)
A Just Repayment
“God considers it just to repay.” When Jesus returns, everyone will be repaid according to what he has done in this life. Paul puts it this way in Romans:
“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” (Rom. 2:6-8)
Let’s say you were to invest your money–month after month, year after year putting it into a mutual fund. After decades of investing, you call up your portfolio manager as you roll out of your retirement party to find out what’s waiting in your account. Your broker responds: “Great news! After all your money-saving, here’s what I’ve secured for you: a lifetime supply of hotdogs! But wait, there’s a bonus–a warehouse full of cotton candy!” You would be unhappy, to say the least. You have invested money. You expect to be repaid in money–not hotdogs…or cotton candy.
So, what return should human beings expect on all of the sin we keep investing, day after day? For the evil thoughts of our minds? For the evil intentions of our hearts? For the evil words of our mouths? For the evil actions of our hands?
What is the fair market going to return to you on the Last Day for my sin? Paul writes, “Indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict…” I can’t think of a more fair repayment than affliction for affliction. Why should God have regard for me if I have had no regard for him? This is not God being petty; this is God being fair. It is my just repayment. I have had no regard for God. I have not obeyed his King. God will have no regard for me nor will he allow me into his Kingdom (2 Thess. 1:8).
But, brothers and sisters, this is the good news for those of us who follow Jesus Christ and suffer for the sake of his Kingdom. When we suffer unjustly, when we are treated unfairly, when we are afflicted for Christ’s sake, God’s fairness guarantees us a just repayment: “…and [He will] grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us” (2 Thess. 1:7).
Are you tired of suffering? Are you weary of affliction? Cry out for the return of Jesus! The rest is coming with Him. Our just repayment for affliction in this life will be eternal, satisfying rest in the next. On that day, all accounts will be settled by just repayment.
A fair standard for all
On the Day of Judgment, no one will be able to accuse God of being unfair. Each of us will get exactly what we have cried out for. The standard will be the same for everyone. For the rich and the poor. For the oppressed and the oppressor. For the black and the white and the brown and every other color. For the old and the young. For the Christian and the non-Christian. This shall be the fair standard for us all: the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the fair standard. He is the measuring stick. Each of us will be measured against his perfect righteousness.
But none of us can measure up to Jesus. Exactly. That’s the fairness of God’s justice. He does not bend his standard for the rich and powerful–or even for the religious. Our inability to measure up is the reason why Jesus preaching this message: “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). This is not a suggestion, this is not even an offer. This is a command. Paul says, “…obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8).
Every human being who does not obey the gospel call of Jesus Christ, will suffering the vengeance for the sins we’ve been stockpiling against a Holy God all our lives.
The gospel of fairness
The fairness of God is good news to those of us who have obeyed the gospel. The gospel of our Lord Jesus says that for those who have repented and believed, our faith is “counted to us” as righteousness (Rom. 4:22-25). The very righteousness of Jesus himself—every good deed, every act of obedience, every submission to the Father’s will—is given to us by faith as a gift (Rom. 3:22-24).
This is why the fairness of God’s justice is such good news: There is nothing we can add. The standard by which all men and women will be judged before God is the righteousness of Jesus Christ–and we who have obeyed the Gospel have been clothed with that very righteousness. The God who set the standard has satisfied that standard–completely–in us through Christ.
What remains for us is not a life of trying to measure up or to improve our standing before God, but to live and rejoice in the righteousness of Christ. Trusting in the power of God to make us worthy to enter his Kingdom, we enter into “every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in [us]” (2 Thess. 1:11-12).
Today’s culture tells us what we need more than anything else is fairness. Fair pay, fair treatment, fair laws. Fairness will reign one day–if not in this life then in the next. What you and I need now more than ever is not fairness but forgiveness. May we trust that one day just repayment will be meted out for every affliction, sin, and injustice. May we believe that all will be judged by the same standard in the courtroom of God. And may it drive us to the feet of King Jesus pleading for his mercy.