The Unfairness of God
May 3, 2021 1999
We live in a culture of entitlement. We believe that we are entitled to all kinds of rights, benefits, and rewards.
Thank God that he is unfair!
The whole advertising industry, which drives our consumer society is based on the idea of convincing us that we deserve whatever it is trying to sell to us, even if we really don’t, and even if we can’t afford it.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are good enough within ourselves, and that we are entitled to the presence of God in our lives, and to the joy and peace that he brings, and to the salvation that he offers.
But that would be a deadly trap. To think like that would be to be just like the religious leaders of Jesus’ time. They thought they were entitled as well. Eventually they thought they were entitled to crucify the Son of God.
The Gospels take pains to point out not that we are worthy, but instead that Christ treats us as worthy. There’s a world of difference right there! Similarly, the Gospels point out time and time again, not that Christ is fair in how he treats us, but instead that the way Christ treats us is downright unfair! How can this be possible? Let’s take a look at it.
God is so unfair that he saves even you.
In Jesus’ story of the Great Banquet in Luke 14:16-24, all the people who “deserved” to be invited find excuses to refuse the invitation. So the host, who represents God, tells his servant to:
Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame (v.21, NIV).
These are the people who least deserve to be at the banquet! But after the servant has done this, he reports back that there is still room. This is probably because the undeserving invitees are unable to believe that the invitation is genuine! So the host sends out his servant to invite them again, and he says, that not one of the originally invited, deserving guests would get a taste of the banquet (v.24).
The unfairness of God is called grace.
It’s the same story in the Parable of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32. The unworthy son is welcomed home with a great banquet. But the older son, who never left, but instead worked hard for his father all those years, is left fuming outside because he thinks the banquet should have been for him. In the end, through his unforgiving and ungracious attitude, he is shown up as unworthy. However the son who has returned has discovered undeserved worth.
Then of course we have the story of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16. Here, all the workers are paid the same by the owner of the vineyard. This is regardless of whether they worked all day or whether they worked a few, short hours. As in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, there is complaining at this obvious unfairness, to which the owner basically responds, “It’s my money, so I can do whatever I like with it. You have no right to be resentful just because I’m generous.”
All of these stories are telling us the same thing: that in relation to the Gospel, the apparently worthy become the unworthy, and the unworthy are counted as worthy.
How unfair is God? Well, he is so unfair that he saves even you!