God is Unfair

A discussion broke out the other night in class as to whether or not God is unfair and, if He is, how that can be reconciled with the belief that God is good. The thesis was that if God is good then His actions must be fair, yet we seem many times over the in Scriptures that He often acts in ways we would easily and without second thought consider to be unfair. How can this be?

The discussion centered on His treatment of Cain and Abel. As the story goes, God regarded Abel (a sheppard) over Cain (a farmer). In the story, the two brothers bring to God an offering from each of their fields. Abel offers, “the firstborn of his flock”, while Cain brings “fruits of the ground.” God favored the offering of Abel over Cain and, a few verses later, Cain leads Abel into a field and murders his brother.

From this story the discussion on the fairness of God was born. The popular thought was that God arbitrarily chose Abel’s offering over Cain’s. Perhaps God even set the two brothers up so that Abel was favored over Cain. There is a long and documented history of God “favoring” the younger brother over the older, which is precisely what is represented here. So, does God choose favorites or is there a basis for his favor?

One student, however, was looking at the discussion from a different angle. He didn’t see it as a matter of whether or not God is fair; rather, he saw it as, simply, “Who cares?” This young man raised his hand and said, “Yeah, God is unfair, but who cares? His unfairness works to our advantage.” The professor asked him to go on, and the debate around him subsided. The student went on: “Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were given clothes and providence. Cain killed Abel and rather than being struck down he received Holy protection from having harm done to him. Mercy is, by its very nature, unfair.”

No response from the class, and the lecture moved on.

It’s true, though, isn’t it? God is unfair, and we should all be eternally grateful. God’s unfairness was what spared the lives of Adam, Eve, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, David, Paul, and countless untold others. God’s unfairness is also why Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins. I say again, Jesus died for our sins, not His. How is that fair? It isn’t in the least bit, and you can never make the case otherwise, yet I don’t hear many Christians chiming in with charges of unfairness when their very salvation the means by which it was received are brought to light.

Yes, God is unfair, and often times that is manifest in our lives in horribly painful and challenging ways. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a difficult breakup, divorce, or unrequited love – all these and so many other instances seem unfair when they happen to “good” people, and we are quick to proclaim God to be acting unfairly, but we must remember that if God did act in a fair manner all the time, we would have no hope.

“For the wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6.23) and “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are freely justified by his grace through the redemption of Jesus Christ.” Are we really upset that God is unfair, or are we upset that we are in times of trouble? Rough as life can often be, I am rather happy that God is unfair.

The Christian Post