Question: 'Is God unfair?'
Those of us who read the word and pray daily understand both from scripture and from experience that God is a God of justice.
But, has anyone here ever asked or thought:
"God, why are you being so unfair to me?"
"Why did he receive the promotion and I didn't?"
" I do the same job he does?" "I really needed the pay raise!"
"Why did You allow their family to purchase the house we
wanted to buy?"
"Why did I have to suffer through covid and they didn't?"
"Why are you favoring him when Your word says in Romans2:11,
'For there is no partiality with God?' "
That said, let's look at the question: 'Is God Unfair?'
Here are 4 examples that would suggest to the human heart God is being unfair:
A man's heartfelt desire is to become a newspaper columnist. After a season writing for a newspaper, he is fired by the editor citing a lack of imagination and having no good ideas.
A couple has a child who doesn't speak until he is four, doesn't read until he is seven and eventually diagnosed as being mentally handicapped.
A man serves with distinction in battle and honorably discharged from the military. After serving, his attempts at farming, real estate, and a family business all fail.
A teenage girl sustains a neck fracture in a diving accident that renders her a quadriplegic. She is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Q: In these examples, is God being unfair?
Q: We know God is in control of everything, involved in every aspect of our lives.
So, is God being unfair when He allows what we call 'success' to elude us?
Q: Is God being unfair when a teenage girl becomes paralyzed and confined to a
wheelchair for the rest of her life?
Q: When we feel God has been unfair to us, do we say - 'Well, it's God's will.'
But deep down, do we think ... "Why is God so unfair to me?
The Bible teaches us that God sees the end from the beginning:
--He sees the end of our life before it even begins.
--He sees the end of an event or a trial before it even starts.
--And He knows everything that will occur in between.
In Isaiah 46:9-10, God says: "For I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure ... Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass, I have purposed it; I will also do it."
What is God saying to us in this passage? ... That He is God ... and He will do all His pleasure!
But, the Bible also teaches God has a plan for each of our lives.
In Jer. 29:11, God says: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
And in Rom. 8:28, "And we know All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. "
Q: What is God telling us in Rom 8:28?
That, although we could be standing in the deepest valley of despair imaginable, God will somehow transform that negative experience and work it for good.
- Could it be that a promotion at work or an unaccepted job application may not
have been in God's plan for us?
- That, by not receiving a sought after blessing, God planned something better
- That, had God answered our prayer, it could have actually harmed us?
(ex) You wanted to marry someone but God prevented it (seeing the end from
the beginning) knowing he or she was untrustworthy, or would lead you astray,
or turn you away from the faith?
- Could it be God is testing our faith by delaying the answer ... so we learn to trust
and lean more on Him?
As we dig deeper into the question, 'Is God Unfair,' we read in Isaiah 55:8-9, where God Himself says:
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."
Now, let's turn to some examples in scripture to take a closer look at God's fairness:
(EX I) Jesus touched upon the issue of 'fairness' while He taught about 'repentance' after the tower of Siloam fell and killed eighteen people.
In Luke13:4, Jesus said to His disciples:
"Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?
I tell you no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."
--In this example, Jesus was telling His disciples it could have happened to anyone
living in Jerusalem ... because all are sinners living in a sin-infested world.
(Some may call it bad luck or wrong place at the wrong time)
--We are all subject to the Tower of Siloam falling onto us ... in whatever form the
Tower takes in our lives.
--God may allow something to happen to us if it's a lesson He wants us to learn -
OR - that maybe someone in our lives has to learn by what we go through.
(EX II) What about Joseph who followed God and carefully committed his ways to Him? Why, in Gen. 37:12-36, do we read God allowed Joseph to be:
1. Thrown into a well by his brothers? And then,
2. Sold into slavery to Potifer, and then,
3. Thrown into an Egyptian prison due to the false accusation levied against
Joseph by Potifer's wife? Joseph was in captivity for thirteen years!
Was God being unfair to Joseph? Looking at it through our eyes of flesh, it seems this was absolutely unfair!
'BUT WE KNOW' the end of Joseph's trial ... that God intended it for good. But, did Joseph know while he was going through it? Joseph's flesh must have been crying out to God, questioning what he did to deserve such punishment! 'God, why are you allowing this?'
Yet, Joseph trusted God and we know what happened in the end ... Joseph became second in command in all of Egypt, saving his people from death due to starvation.
Q: Didn't God purpose for Joseph to go through this trial and training period? So, that in the end, God would work it for good - and for His glory?
Was Godbeing unfair? "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
(Ex III) What about the four lepers we read about in 2Kings chs 6-7? I can't imagine they didn't cry out, 'Why me, God?' Why did I have to contract leprosy!
a. In those days, leprosy was considered dirty. Lepers were ostracized because people considered them sinners. And it was Jewish law all lepers must live outside the city gates.
b. There was a severe famine in Samaria: people in the city were starving.
2Kings 6:24-29 describes the people were eating the heads of donkeys, dove droppings and some even cooking their own babies.
c. The four lepers reasoned in ch 7, verses 3-5: 'We can remain outside the city gates and starve, or we can enter the city and starve, or we can throw ourselves on the mercy of the Syrian army. They will either feed us or kill us!
d. So, they went into the Syrian camp and saw that the entire army fled ... God had sent a loud noise of horses and chariots to strike fear into the hearts of the Syrians ... they thought a great army was coming after them. So they fled leaving their tents, food and valuables.
e. The lepers filled themselves with food but then felt they should tell the Samarian king so the people could eat, preventing them from starving to death.
God saw the end from the beginning. He used these four lepers to save the people. Had they not been leprous having to remain outside the city, and had God not appointed them to be outside the city at that time, the entire city would have perished from starvation. So, was God being unfair?
(EX IV) Was God being unfair to Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego when He allowed them to be thrown into the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down and worship the golden image of King Nebudchadnezzar?
In Dan. 3:10-11, we read: "You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace."
Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego absolutely refused to bow down because they served only the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God had commanded the Israelites not to worship or bow down to any graven image but to worship Him.
So, in Dan. 3:15, the king gave the youths one last chance by arrogantly saying:
"But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace." "And who is the God who will deliver you from my hands?"
The boys answered the king in verses 17-18, saying: "If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king." "But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up." (As we will say: 'We will not obey man's laws if they violate God's laws!')
We know the ending to this as well. The boys survived the fiery furnace because Jesus was with them in the furnace ... whom the king saw with his own eyes. The king said in Dan 3:25,
"Look! he answered, 'I see four men loose walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God."
Comment: Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest warrior-king and ruler in the known world at that time. He worshipped his patron god Marduk along with the other Chaldean gods. He did not worship the God of Israel and it's unlikely he even knew much about Him. So, how did he recognize the fourth person as being ... 'like the Son of God?'
Could it be the Holy Spirit was communicating with the king's heart?
Nebudchadnezzar went on to say in Dan. 3:28-29, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king's words, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!" "Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this."
And in Dan. 3:30, we read: "Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego in the province of Babylon."
So, through this fiery furnace trial:
1. The boys remained faithful to God and did not bow to any other authority.
2. The king and all those with him witnessed the saving power of the one true
3. The king recognized the fourth person in the fiery furnace as Jesus, whom the
king did not know, yet admitted was like 'the Son of God.'
4. The king gave honor to the God of Israel, his attitude changed toward the one
true God, and made a decree to put to death anyone who spoke against the
God of Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego.
5. The boys received a promotion from the king in the province of Babylon.
6. And from it, God received all the glory and honor.
So, was God being unfair to allow these three young men to be thrown into the fiery furnace?
At some point in the future, the Bible foretells some of us will be thrown into the furnace of affliction for our faith ... either prison or a concentration camp ... when we refuse to bow to the antichrist and his laws.
In Rev. 2:10, Jesus told those in the church of Smyrna and tells us today:
"Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life."
And in Rev. 20:4, the apostle John says:
"Then ... I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years."
So, if God appoints some of us to become martyrs for our Lord Jesus:
Q: Will we become angry at God thinking, 'Why me, Lord?' - even though Jesus tells us in John 15:20,
"Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.
If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.' "
But also, we read this in 1Peter 4:16, "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter."
Q: Will we trust God with our lives through such a trial as did Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego? And at the end of that trial, will WE be able to say:
"All things work together for good to those who love God ... ?"
(EX V) In John 21:18-19, Jesus told Peter by what manner of death Peter would glorify God. Then in verses 21-22, Peter asked Jesus regarding the disciple John, while probably pointing to John:
"But Lord, what about this man? " WHAT WAS PETER ASKING Jesus?
It seems Peter was saying to Jesus: "You're being unfair to me!" "What about John?" "Isn't he going to suffer a martyr's death like me?"
And then Jesus said to Peter in verse 22: "If I will that he (John) remain alive till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me."
Comment: We know God designed a plan for each of our lives. Just because Peter was to die a certain death, didn't mean John was to die a similar death, or walk a similar path.
Man's thoughts are finite and fleshly. What man may think as unfair, God may consider a blessing!
In Matt 5:11-12, we read:
"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
So, was Jesus being unfair to Peter? Wouldn't Peter's death bring Peter a great reward and blessing?
But, again, God's fairness may not be perceived by man as being fair!
'God's Ways are above our ways, His thoughts above our thoughts.'
(EX VI) And what about 'the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard'in
Though Jesus is referencing the kingdom of heaven in this parable, He is also addressing God's fairness.
Before reading in Matt 20:1-16, two points of clarification:
1. The landowner in this parable represents God.
2. In Jewish tradition, when the Bible speaks of the first hour, it represents 6am
at the rising of the sun.
In Matt 20:1-16, Jesus tells His disciples:
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them,'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.' So they went. "Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, 'Why have you been standing here idle all day?' They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.' He said to them, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.'
"So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, 'Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.' "And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius." "And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.' But he answered one of them and said, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good ... ? "
So, in this parable - where the employer represents God - was He being unfair to any of his workers given they all agreed to be paid one denarius per day?
Q: Will those of us who have been serving Jesus for twenty, thirty, fifty years ... complain to the Lord ... that those who believed for only a year or two receive the same pay as us ... ETERNAL LIFE?
1. There will be additional crowns for our service to the Lord.
2. What about a deathbed conversion? Is it possible? What about the thief on the cross who repented and Jesus said, "Today, you will be with Me in Paradise."
(Ex VII). Lastly, going back to the Parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. Was the prodigal's father, also a representation of God, unfair to the prodigal's brother?
The father gave to the prodigal his inheritance in one lump sum because the prodigal asked him for it. But, he went away and squandered it. Then, after he returned home destitute, the father threw him a party out of joy for his return.
But, the prodigal's brother, out of anger, said to the father in Luke 15:28-31,
"Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him."
But, what was the father's reply in verse 31? And isn't this what Jesus is telling us through this parable? "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours."
Isn't this what God is telling each of us as His sons and daughters?
That all He has is ours ... when we ask in faith ... without doubting?
--- So, by giving to his prodigal son, was the father being unfair to the prodigal's
---Did the brother even ask his father for what he needed or desired?
Remember: Fairness from our human perspective is not necessarily the same as God's perspective. His Ways are above our ways, and His thoughts are above our thoughts.
Comment: Some believers may feel the same way as the prodigal's brother, telling God: "I've been diligent to serve you for many years. Yet, this man just began serving you. Will you give him the same as you give me?
Answer ... YES. Not a denarius ... But eternal life with Him in heaven!
Jesus tells us in Matt. 7:7-8, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
But again, the Bible cautions us we must ask in faith without doubting:
James 1:6-8 says: "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."
James 5:15 says: "And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will
raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."
Now, going back to the four examples given at the beginning of this message:
(Ex1) A man's heartfelt desire is to become a newspaper columnist. After a season writing for a newspaper, he is fired by the editor citing a lack of imagination and having no good ideas.
Is God being unfair?
- But, the man is persistent and won't quit 'asking, seeking and knocking.' He eventually goes on to create a cultural icon that bears his name ... Walt Disney.
(Ex2) A couple has a child who doesn't speak until he is four, doesn't read until he is seven and eventually diagnosed as being mentally handicapped.
Is God being unfair?
- His parents keep interceding for their child. The child goes onto win a Nobel Prize for changing the world and the field of physics ... Albert Einstein.
(Ex3) A man serves with distinction in battle and honorably discharged from the military. After serving, his attempts at farming, real estate, and a family business all fail.
Is God being unfair to allow all these failures? Doesn't God sometimes open and close doors to direct our path in the way He wants us to go?
- Having failed in the civilian world, he re-enlists in the army and receives a field command. He then becomes one of the most influential Americans of the 19th century, leading the Union Army to victory during the Civil War and later helped steer the nation through Reconstruction during his two terms as the 18th president of the United States ... Ulysses S. Grant.
(Ex4) A teenage girl sustains a neck fracture in a diving accident that renders her a quadriplegic. She is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
Is God being unfair?
- She goes on to become an evangelical Christian author, radio host, and founder of an organization "accelerating Christian ministry in the disability community."
She is the recipient of many awards and has authored over 48 books. She has been married to her husband for 37 years ... Joni Eareckson Tada.
POINTS TO CONCLUDE
#1 None of us is capable of knowing why God does what He does, or allows what
He allows. This is where faith and trust in God come into play.
1Cor. 2:16 says, "For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may
#2) God owes us nothing. We have all have fallen short of the glory of God. We
are all deserving of death. But because God loves us so much -------
He gave us His son ... who gave His life ... so we can have ours.
(3) We know from the Parable of the Vineyard:
(a) Everything belongs to God.
(b) He does not treat us unfairly.
(c) He is a God of justice, righteousness, mercy and grace.
(d) And, He always does what is right in His sight.
(4) Our life is a journey where:
(a) God knows the end from the beginning.
(b) He knows the plans He has for each of us - plans not to harm but to give us
a hope and a future - as any good father would want for his children.
(c) He knows the bumps in the road each of us will encounter. But, He