What Even is ‘Fair?’

Some people are just ‘better’ at life than us. That’s just how it is. These people may be the people who never show up to lecture or study for the midterm or final, but still pull off an A in the class. These people may be the really well-balanced guy, who’s athletic, musical, in student government, and not to mention incredibly kind and smart. These people may be the sibling that just seems to earn our parents’ approval more than we do. These people may be the ones living the life that we wish we had – backpacking through Europe, the career we want, the clothes we want, etc. When we don’t have the life we think we deserve, we think it’s unfair.

Past, present, and future, man will always view life as sometimes seeming unfair. Unfair, to us, is when there is no sense of (worldly) justice, in that people often get what they don’t deserve, or they don’t get what they deserve. Funny how these are usually the definitions for grace and mercy; our world tells us that grace and mercy are unfair, and in a certain sense, they aren’t. Fair would be God smiting us right now for all our sins, but He doesn’t do that.

The story of Jacob and Esau (in Genesis) is one which has always confused me, and I’m sure has confused a lot of other kids learning this story during Sunday School in elementary school. Jacob tricks Esau into giving up his birthright for some food, since Esau was extremely hungry. This birthright was incredibly important, as Isaac was going to bless Esau and essentially give him a great spiritual legacy. I always thought it was ridiculously unfair (in general, and to Esau especially) that God continued to bless Jacob after treating his brother in such a way, and how outraged I would be if I was Esau. But I’m not God; what do I know?

God blesses those with spiritual ambition. Jacob had spiritual ambition. Though for a while, Jacob really believed he didn’t need God and could face Esau himself, after wrestling with God (who ultimately touched Jacob’s hip socket to put it out of its joint), Jacob understands his own frailty and vulnerability. This vulnerability was made possible because he had been stripped of his possessions, after having sent everyone and everything he had to Esau first – he would have no distractions and be able to hear God. God allows us to struggle with Him, rather than coercing us because He understands that the angst and pride in us needs time to be worked out. Once Jacob recognized he was wrestling with God, he says to Him, “I will not let You go until You bless me” [Genesis 32:26]. Jacob sought after God’s favor, whereas Esau had settled. Jacob was able to take Esau’s birthright because Esau had little regard for it – he didn’t value it enough to keep it, but rather, gave it up for the instant satisfaction of mere food; Esau didn’t understand what the birthright meant, but Jacob did.

Jacob isn’t the only one who does something that we think is unfair or distasteful – the story of Tamar and Judah illustrates how God looks at people holistically, rather than at one of their actions. God is the ultimate judge, with perfect objectivity and a perfect standard of justice. Though we can never understand it, we can have faith that God knows what’s truly in our hearts, and honors it. He knows we’re not perfect, He knows we’ll screw up over and over again, but He chooses to give us a chance over and over again, redeeming us through Jesus. God is fair. Let us never forget that and proudly believe that we can judge something as being “unfair.” Everything happens for a reason, exactly as it’s supposed to.


And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. [Hebrews 11:6]


One thought on “What Even is ‘Fair?’

  1. Pingback: Be Still – Where Is Water

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