“He got more ice cream than me. That’s not fair!”
“Why doesn’t she have to mow the grass like I do? That’s not fair!”
“All my friends get to stay out later than me. That’s not fair!”
Life’s not fair. And, as a parent, you won’t be either.
If you have more than one child you’ve probably already figured out it’s impossible to treat each one equally – a child’s definition of “fair”. But don’t worry about it because God isn’t fair either.
We love to tell the story of Peter being set free from prison by an angel opening the doors. But do you remember why Peter was arrested in the first place? Herod arrested James and had him killed. When Herod saw how this pleased the Jews he had Peter arrested too, apparently planning to also kill Peter. But God sends an angel for Peter. James dies and Peter is miraculously delivered. (Acts 12) That’s not fair!
How about the story Jesus tells about a man – who represents the Lord – who went on a trip and entrusts differing amounts of his wealth to his servants. One gets 5, one gets 2 and one only gets 1 talent. That’s not fair!
But there’s a good reason God’s not fair and why you shouldn’t worry about trying to be fair either.
In Matthew 25 each servant was entrusted with different amounts “based upon their abilities.” Your children need to be treated differently based upon their abilities. One size does not fit all.
Fairness treats everyone the same regardless of ability, effort or competence. In a fair world all men are created. But we aren’t created equal. If we were created equal I could play NBA basketball, get paid as much as the most amazing players and score as many points as any superstar. Now that is fair. It just isn’t reality.
The problem is, fairness has no room for grace. Remember the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 20:1-16 about the boss who hires several groups of guys throughout the day. At the end of the day he pays the first group a fair wage for a days work. All is fair.
But then, out of kindness, he gives the same amount to all the guys who only worked part of the day. That’s not fair! But some children were able to eat that night because the boss was kind and generous instead of fair.
God’s not fair but He is kind, generous and just.
Those are traits we want to teach our children but that may mean there will be times we can’t be fair.
Justice offers grace to the weak. It demands more of those with greater ability, but also rewards those who go above and beyond. Justice takes the one talent away from the lazy man and gives it to the man who already has ten (Matthew 25:28). Life is not fair but, in the end, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25) He will bring all the scales into balance and we will see justice triumph.
As parents we can’t obsess over trying to be fair. Our children are different and need to be treated as individuals. Obviously I’m not implying we should show favoritism but I am saying our job is to help our children learn to deal with injustices – both real and perceived – that they’ll inevitably face.
Let’s teach our kids how to forgive when they are treated unfairly. Let’s teach them how to rejoice when others succeed. Let’s teach them to show compassion toward those who suffer injustice. Let’s teach them to look beyond fairness and let kindness, generosity and mercy rule – even when it’s not fair.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what the LORD requires of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?