Fair is overrated.
Oh the horror and shock of such a statement. Aren’t we supposed to be for fairness? Aren’t we supposed to push for a more fair society? Doesn’t fairness fit in with justice, relationships, and peace?
My answer to each of these questions is no. With some exceptions for the third question.
Fairness can be defined the following way – impartial and just treatment or behavior without favoritism or discrimination.
Sounds nice on the surface right?
To help clarify this, here is a definition of “just” – based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair.
Who wouldn’t be in favor of that right?
Well God for one. In our Gospel lesson from this past Sunday we heard a parable from Matthew 20 in which the landlord hires people throughout the day and at the end of the day ends up paying people all the same wage – regardless of how long they worked.
If we are honest about this reading, our first complaint about it is that it’s not fair. The people who worked the longest should be paid the most. But the land owner doesn’t treat the laborers fairly. He pays them what they agreed to – a day’s wage. All of them, without exception. It’s not based on merit or work. It’s based on what the land owner wants to do with his money and property. In this case, the land owner is often compared to God.
In a sense, God is not fair. We aren’t treated with impartiality when it comes to God. Instead we are treated in an unfair manner – but it is unfair in our favor. Just like the last workers in the field who get paid way more than they deserve. They were treated in an unfair manner – and they were thrilled by it. The ones who worked in the field all day long, and received their reward complained because it seemed to them that they were treated unfairly compared to the late comers. Yes, they were treated unfairly. But God doesn’t deal with us fairly. And we should all be grateful for that. If God were to treat us fairly, we’d get what we deserve. And since all of us are sinners, what we deserve isn’t to spend eternity in the presence of God, but separated from God.
Instead, I’m glad we don’t have a fair God. But rather a God who treats us unfairly.