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Fair vs. Favor

"Dad! He's not being fair!" 

"Mom! Why do I have to? It's not fair!"

With four kids living in our house, we have the "fair fight" daily! Usually multiple times a day. If you are like me, I get exhausted hearing the same complaints multiple times. My patience wears thin, and eventually, I end up snapping back with, "Life isn't fair! Get over it!" And if your kids are anything like mine, you know that reaction is not helpful! In fact, it probably does more harm than good. But it doesn't change the reality of the statement. Life isn't fair. And if it was fair, I am not convinced we would be any happier. We wouldn't be more successful. We wouldn't have more perfect lives. 

The world's problems can't actually be solved with fairness. At first glance, it seems like some form of equality would create meaningful change. And in some situations, that is undoubtedly true. There are genuine injustices that exist in our world that should be righted. But just like our kids complain about life being unfair, we adults often do the same. We look at a situation and get frustrated when it isn't fair. We get upset when we get passed up for that promotion we know we deserved. We lose it when someone cuts in front of us in traffic or the line at the grocery store. Or maybe what really gets you going is when you see an unfair situation affect your kids. You've seen the parent on the sidelines yelling at the coach or the referee. Don't get me started on the comments made toward referees during sporting events! 

Please do not hear what I am not saying. I am not against fairness. But I think we have to be careful when we talk about what is fair and what is unfair. I don't think we actually count the cost of what "fair" actually requires. And at the end of the day, I am not convinced we actually want fair. I think we are after something else entirely. 

In most circumstances, we are unwilling to carry fairness beyond our own personal pain. If it hurts us, we don't want it. There are the few who are willing to sacrifice something they want to benefit those around them. But for the most part, we want things to be fair without it costing us something personally. The only way we are willing to give up something of our own is if everyone does it too. After all, it wouldn't be fair unless everyone had to do it.  Not only that, do we complain about an unfair situation, when the unfairness adds to our own lives? Typically we don't even notice when we are the benefactor of an unfair circumstance. And if it is pointed out to us, we excuse it away or we revert back to our lovely parental habits and say, "Life isn't fair."

I would argue that what we truly desire isn't fairness, it's favor. And those who strive to make things fair are unwilling to allow that fairness to leave us in a mediocre state of being. We want the best "fair" we can find! Again I would argue that we are advocating for favor, not fairness. 

Still not convinced? Let me ask you a couple of questions to keep you thinking. What if being fair required us to all go hungry? What if being fair required us to live in a world less sanitary? What if being fair meant we wouldn't have access to a doctor or medicine? I could go on. I don't think many of us would want our effort to make things fair to diminish the quality of life. In order to make things fair, it may cost many of us more than we are willing to give up. It may actually diminish the overall quality of life across the globe.

"But in our world now, we wouldn't have to settle for those things! We have so many resources, so much money, so much technology, the whole world could be better, and still be fair!"

Again, we are looking for favor, not fair. If fair is the goal, then the answers to the questions above would all be "so be it." But it isn't. Because we all desire for all people to receive favor. 

You know where we got this desire for favor? We have this desire because God created us to be like Him, and He desires to give us favor! He wants us to live the best life, yes here on Earth, but also with Him in eternity! 

You see, our brokenness separated us from His perfection. The injustice in our world, which the bible calls sin, is more deplorable and disgusting to God than it is to us.  He can not ignore the injustice of sin. If He chose to ignore it, He wouldn't be a good God. Just like a "good person" shouldn't ignore injustice, a good God shouldn't either. But God so loves you and me, who have a tendency to sin, He decided not to hold us accountable to what is fair. Because a fair God would punish injustice without hesitating. Instead of being fair and just, God chooses to be merciful and just. God extends the opportunity to walk in His favor rather than in His judgment. 

We don't want fair. We want favor. And God has extended ultimate favor through His incredible mercy and His incredible grace...if we choose to surrender to it.


"...because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment."
         -James 2:13 NIV-