Is God Fair?
Yes, He is. No, He’s not. Sounds like the perfect answer.
A veteran pastor was mediating a domestic quarrel and decided to hear one person at a time. After hearing the woman’s side of the story, he concluded, “You’re right.” But after he heard the man, he said the same thing to him, “You’re right.” The couple left happily. The pastor’s wife commented: “I couldn’t help overhearing but how could you say that both of them are right and yet they are quarrelling?” To which the pastor paused, then answered: “You are also right.”
From God’s perspective, He is fair. He has to be and we would rebel at anything otherwise. Our bosses may be unfair, even our parents may be partial, but, by essence and definition God must be totally fair. Somehow, by faith, we accept it to be so.
Yet for many people, He doesn’t come across that way. He isn’t all that even-handed as we expect Him to be. No need to point to poverty, diseases, unequal distribution of wealth or happiness in the wide world. Specifically, why is God favouring others and overlooking me?
Consider if you were appointed a judge in the preliminary rounds of a beauty contest, how many finalists would have got that far? It’s the “eye of the beholder” quandary again. How fair are we in our own judgments?
So why not, on a lark, entertain a non-believer’s point of view. Herb Silverman in “10 Questions About Hell From an Atheist” contended: “If an Adolph Hitler repented on his deathbed for his role in the Holocaust and accepted Jesus, some say he would go to heaven. I think it would be more reasonable (though what’s reason got to do with it?) for a person to be judged on his or her lifetime actions rather than on an end-of-life belief.”
Sounds sensible to many of us who were raised on the “Continual Assessment” system in school. Everything shouldn’t hang on just one final exam but on a student’s progress over the entire period under review. Of course, if it wasn’t Hitler but our favourite and rascally uncle, we like to know there was still a “one last gasp” chance of changing one’s ultimate destination.
But as Silverman noted himself, “What’s reason got to do with it?” Is there a (United Nations?) prescribed sense of fairness, justice and equality as a benchmark? Would we ever be able to agree on it? I’m told every time a judge pronounces on a court case, there would be at least one unhappy party.
Silverman posed another objection, “Why did God torture His son?” Here’s his provocative answer: “Couldn’t He come up with a less bloodthirsty way to allow us into heaven than by torturing and killing His innocent son to make up for an alleged Original Sin of an alleged first couple? We praise God for an action that we would incarcerate any human for perpetrating. God seems inhumane, but I suppose that’s because God isn’t human.”
Let’s allow that supposition to stand. So, that’s why – God is not like us. Not at all. Many people have the tendency to make God in their own image, until He must be quite like us.
No He’s not.
The Old Testament hero Job knew that. How then could he say, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15)? Man is not the centre of the universe. Heaven help us if we are the final arbiter of all things fair and just.
Joseph’s classic answer in Gen 50:19-21 showed how God has a way of overturning human injustice to become, instead, a great divine provision. You planned for evil. God planned for good. The very Problem became the very Solution. Glorious of God. Nobody can upstage God. Truly, He makes all things beautiful in its time (Eccles 3:11).
If by ‘fair’ we mean everybody’s got to get what they deserve, then surely we know, God is NOT fair. We deserve to go to Hell, but He wants us all in Heaven. And with that hope, I rest in His distinct fairness.
Dr Andrew Goh is the honorary editor of IMPACT Magazine