Thursday, March 20, 2014

Just Be Fair

by Andrew Cromwell

Have you noticed our culture is obsessed with fairness? If you can get a group of people to utter the words, “that’s just not fair”, then any discussion on the point (it doesn’t even matter what point) is simply over.

And fairness is generally a wonderful value. It speaks of equal opportunity for all despite creed or color. It champions the idea that the world is a better place if even the least advantaged are given a seat at the table.

But fairness is not always what we think it is. We make the mistake of thinking fairness is being treated just the same as everyone else. This is what my kids tell me when they are unhappy one of their siblings was treated differently. They whine “he got 30 minutes on the Xbox and I only got 25!” One of my children in particular is acutely aware of the ways that he has been treated unfairly and is constantly looking for ways to even things out.

My son believes fairness is equality. But it isn’t. There are many times when I treat my children differently, not because I am being unfair but because they are different people. For one child, if I spend an hour just hanging out with them it fills their love tank. For another, that same hour doesn’t mean much, but if I give them a gift, you would think heaven itself had opened up. I treat them differently because they are different.

This sounds obvious when put in this way because we all know that everyone is different and sometimes fairness looks different in different situations. But we lose this truth so quickly. As soon as our personal feeling of entitlement is threatened, we immediately get an attitude and declare, “That’s not fair!” Suddenly we start to act as if the world revolves around us and we forget the bigger picture.

In the bigger picture, sometimes fairness has to take a second seat to other things. Jesus tells us a story in Matthew 20 that completely turns all of our notions about fairness upside down. There was a man who had a vineyard and who went out and hired workers to work the field one day. He went out in the morning and found some workers and promised them one silver coin for their day’s work. Then three more times throughout the day, he hired more workers and promised them a fair wage. At the end of the day, when everyone went to collect their wages, the owner paid everyone the same amount: one silver coin each.

Well, as you can imagine, the workers who got hired early in the morning and who had worked all day long started to complain. They said that it wasn’t fair for them to work more and get paid the same. The owner reminded them that they had agreed to work a day’s labor for a silver coin and then went on to remind them that it was his money and if he wanted to pay the others the same amount, he could.

How’s that for fairness! Jesus then closed the story by telling the crowd that there are times when God will move those from the back of the line to the front of the line and vice versa.  Why? Don’t miss this. Because He’s God and He can be gracious and kind to anyone He wants even if they don’t deserve it in other people’s opinion.

The point is this, God is willing to move people from the front to the back of the line in order to express His love to those who are waiting at the back. He will do whatever it takes to make an entrance for people who have given up on their chances of ever getting in to the party.

And if you’re one of those people who feel like you’re at the back of the line and you’re not sure if you’ll ever “get in”, then you remember this story. God wants you in the party too! No matter how late it is in your life, no matter how long you have waited to change your ways, it’s not too late to join the work party!

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