We have all struggled with this issue at one time or another. Why does God allow some people to come from great families, while so many others are orphans? Or some people to be brilliant, while others struggle with mental disabilities? Or some people to enjoy long, fulfilling marriages, while others are young widows? Or to bless some families with many children, while other couples struggle with infertility? Or to give some individuals stable employment, and others with unemployment? We may find ourselves asking, “Why, God? Why?” What does the Bible say about this? And who are some examples of christian heroes who struggled greatly and yet did not give up on God?
What does the Bible say about Fairness?
Matthew 20 (NIV)
The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard
20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
3 “About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4 He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ 5 So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. 6 About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
8 “When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
9 “The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Wait, this parable doesn’t seem fair. The men who worked all day got paid the same as the guys who only worked one hour? However, this parable is more about the landowner (God) and his desire and right to be generous with his money.
And what does the last verse, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” mean?
Gotquestions.org gives several helpful insights. “The most direct interpretation, based on the content of the parable, is that all believers, no matter how long or how hard they work during this lifetime, will receive the same basic reward: eternal life.”
“There are some who were first to follow Christ in time yet are not the first in the kingdom. Judas Iscariot was one of the first disciples and was honored to be the treasurer of the group, yet his greed led to his undoing; Paul was the last of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:8–9) yet the one who worked the hardest (2 Corinthians 11:23). There are some who were first in privilege yet are not first in the kingdom. Based on the terms of the New Covenant, the Gentiles had equal access to the kingdom of heaven, although they had not served God under the Old Covenant. The Jews, who had labored long under the Old Covenant, were jealous of the grace extended to the Gentile “newcomers” (see Romans 11:11). There are some who are first in prestige and rank yet might never enter the kingdom. Jesus told the Pharisees that the sinners they despised were being saved ahead of them: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31–32).”
“Heaven’s value system is far different from earth’s value system. Those who are esteemed and respected in this world (like the rich young ruler) may be frowned upon by God. The opposite is also true: those who are despised and rejected in this world (like the disciples) may, in fact, be rewarded by God. Don’t get caught up in the world’s way of ranking things; it’s too prone to error.”
Something that helped with my perspective on fairness was considering God’s perspective. We are all sinners who deserve nothing. Yet He allowed His perfect son, Jesus, to be crucified on our behalf. OUR BEHALF. God could have stopped it, but did not. Jesus died to cover our sins. We should be paying for our sins, but we don’t have to. Jesus paid for it all. In return, We are simply asked to follow God and His son Jesus, and ask forgiveness for our sins. Thats it. Thats all.
With that in mind, it made me realize that instead of looking at all the “unfairness,” to instead look at all the blessings God has given me that I didn’t deserve.
- I have made it to 39 years of life so far.
- I have a great husband.
- I have living children.
- I have never missed a meal.
- I have been forgiven by God and have a relationship with Him.
- I have shelter.
- I have clothing.
- I have friends.
- I live in a country with many freedoms, including the freedom to worship.
- We have helpful family nearby.
Of course, that is just a starting point and not a comprehensive list. When you start to really look at your life, you will quickly find that your list of blessings is long too. While things will not always be our idea of fair, we have to intentionally look at God’s perspective on the overall picture and see that if God was “fair,” we would have to pay for our own sins, which are QUITE EXTENSIVE. Instead, He allows us to be forgiven and then showers us with blessings in His own way and timing. His ways are not our ways, and we may never understand why things are the way they are. We have to just trust and be thankful for what we do have.
Examples of Christian Heroes with Great Struggles
There are many, many godly men and women over the millenia who were great servants of God, and yet God allowed them to endure many hardships.
Joni Earackson Tada – God allowed her to become a quadriplegic at 17 years old. She really struggled with her faith in the early years, but eventually her faith grew and she started an international disability ministry. In her later years, she got breast cancer multiple times. And yet she has never stopped encouraging all those around her to keep their eyes on Jesus.
The original 12 disciples – all but John and Judas were martyred for their faith in terrible ways. But God did not stop it. Their deaths are all covered in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
Job – God allowed Satan to test the believer Job in many ways. Satan took away all of Job’s wealth. Then killed all of his children. Then gave him terrible health. Job greatly wrestled with his faith in God, but never gave up on Him. Job’s wife said to curse God. Job’s friends all turned on him and said his struggles were because of his sin. Yet Job never gave up on God. And eventually God restored Job and gave him more wealth than he had before, more children, and good health. (Job 1 – 42)
Missionaries – countless missionaries and their families that have lost their lives in the field due to starvation (Lottie Moon), violence (Jim Elliot), poor health (David Livingstone), and more. They were serving God in dangerous locations for the sole purpose of sharing the gospel and yet God did not spare their hardships.
Hymn Writers like Horatio Spafford have written some of the greatest hymns of all time after great personal tragedies. Spafford lost his wealth and one of his children in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Some time later, he lost his remaining 4 children on an Atlantic ocean crossing. When he was traveling to meet his grieving wife and passed the area where his children had drowned, he penned “It Is Well with My Soul.”
How is this possible? The Holy Spirit. When a person becomes a believer in God and His son, Jesus, God sends himself in the form of the Holy Spirit to dwell in a person. So when a person is knocked down in anyway – spiritually, emotionally, physically, we have God Himself in us that can help us to recover in ways that don’t make sense. That person just lost everything. How are they able to function? How are they able to laugh again? How are they able to smile? How are they able to encourage others and continue to serve? Through God.
Some additional resources on the fairness of God:
- Crosswalk article “Is God Fair? Maybe Not, but He’s Right”
- Jennifer Rothschild’s Book: God is Just Not Fair
As Christians, we may start to think we “deserve” so many blessings because we regularly read our Bibles, have close relationships with God, give, serve, etc. But no matter how many “good deeds” we do, it will never be enough. We are covered in sin that only God and His son Jesus can erase. Only through them forgiving us can we be made white as snow.
Only God knows why He seems to bless people disproportionately. But God does not operate on our “fair” system and we just have to trust Him and His character.
Is God good? Yes.
Can we trust Him? Yes.
Does God love Us? Yes.