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Q&A: Is God fair?

How is it fair that as a faithful Christian I’m constantly struggling yet the unchurched people around me seem to live carefree lives?

Let’s start by looking at what fair means.

Understanding fairness

Fair means being impartial and honest. In other words, fair means treating everyone equally. If people demand a fair wage, they are not asking for favoritism. They simply are asking to receive what they have earned and deserved.

If that is what fair means, do we really want God to be fair?

The Bible says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Fair would mean that we should receive no good thing in this life or the next. Fair would mean that we suffer an eternity in hell.

As Christians, it is easy to act as though we are doing God a favor by being his followers and living for him. The reality is that God has done us the unmerited favor (namely grace!) of causing us to hear the gospel message, come to faith, and live in the peace and joy of eternity secured through Jesus’ blood. And what is that gospel message? God is not fair. Thank the Lord!

Thank God he’s not fair

Psalm 103:10-12 says, “[God] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” God loves us too much to give us what we deserve.

God is just. Our sin must be punished, but God could not stand to see us suffer what we have fairly earned. So he sent Jesus to suffer the punishment of our sins. No matter how many times you read it, always read it as though it’s the first time: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son” (John 3:16).

It’s just not fair. I sinned, but Jesus died. Jesus earned heaven and suffered abandonment by his heavenly Father on the cross to win heaven for me. It’s just not fair. Thank God!

Hardships can be blessings

When hardships come, we lack the perspective to see the why behind God’s eyes, which see all things. Consider Joseph. He could not see that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28) while he was enduring hatred from his brothers, slavery, or false imprisonment. But through it, God preserved countless lives as well as the line of the Savior. His ways are truly higher than our ways! Sometimes Jesus asks us in hardships, “Can you go through this for me? I cannot tell you why now.” When we see the nail marks in his hands, how can we not say, “Anything for you, Lord. I trust your plan”?

The apostle Paul says, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). We live in a world opposed to God, and we struggle against our own sinful nature. These truths bring unique hardships for believers. These hardships remind us that we are not home yet. We have a far better future to look forward to.

In the heroes of faith chapter (Hebrews 11), the writer says of those heroes, “They were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (v. 16). He’s done that for us too!

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Q&A Bible study open bible 2023 Dave Scharf


A case study in fairness—a look at Psalm 73

What Christian has not wrestled with the perception that God’s people seem to struggle while the wicked seem to prosper? In Psalm 73, even Asaph (one of the inspired writers of the Bible!) says that he almost lost his faith because of this seeming unfairness.

As Christians, we live in a world with ungodly people who not only prosper but also mock us. Our doubt is not just intellectual but experiential. Asaph was troubled that the wicked prospered, and he envied them.

Read Psalm 73:1-12.

Point to modern examples of what Asaph lists about the prosperity of the wicked. Are you tempted to envy them? Why?

Envy turns to pity

Asaph was led to question whether it was worth it to be a follower of God. Maybe you have struggled with the same question. Asaph came to realize that he was not the one on slippery ground. The unbeliever was (v. 18). We have the strength God provides to deal with hardships. First Peter 5:10 says, “The God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Read Psalm 73:13-22.

List a few things about the lives of unbelievers that lead you to pity them.

Pity turns to comfort

When Job asked God the why of his suffering, God’s answer was essentially “I am God, and you are not.”

Professor August Pieper, past president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., wrote, “We stand under the unfathomable, sovereign will of God. One man has this particular trouble, another man has that; the one suffers today, the other tomorrow. . . . Hidden from our eyes is the reason why God imposes such suffering at all, why he dispenses them so differently. This alone is sure, that all things must work together for good” (Our Great Heritage, Vol. II, p. 162). Unlike the wicked who prosper, we have the comfort of knowing that our suffering eventually produces hope (Romans 5:3,4). That hope points us to the conclusion that Asaph came to: There is nothing I want more than you, Lord. And there is nothing I want that does not show me more of you.

Read Psalm 73:23-28.

These verses are filled with comfort for God’s people. Pick out your favorite verse/phrase and explain why it brings you comfort, especially during hard times.

Author: David Scharf
Volume 110, Number 3
Issue: March 2023

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This entry is part 5 of 66 in the series question-answer

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