"It's Not Fair" #70-03
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on September 29, 2002
By Rev. Ken Klaus, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2013 Lutheran Hour Ministries
Text: Romans 5:8
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed. So that we might be able to make that wonderful statement of resurrection victory, it was first necessary for God's Son, our suffering Savior and Lord, to live for us, to die for us. This Jesus did so that you, I, and all who believe in Him as Savior, might escape the punishment and penalty our sins deserve. In these statements, we remember God's grace. With these words, we confess with confidence Christ's act of reconciliation is complete. Yet, no Christian can ever think for a moment that Jesus deserved to die. The sacrifice of the sinless Son of God remains the most unfair and unjust act in the chronicle of history.
You know, when I have the opportunity to visit with young people in an informal setting, they love to talk about their parents. In the course of these discussions, they inevitably come to the conclusion their parents are pretty much all alike--at least in things they say. According to young folks, every parent, without exception, regardless of age, race, creed, color, or financial condition, says, "And, just what part of the word 'no' don't you understand?" They tell me every parent says, "I don't care what everybody else is doing. I'm not the mother or father of everybody else." They can recall their parents saying, "Close the door. Were you born in a barn?" They all remember their parents saying, "Don't put that in your mouth. You don't know where it's been," or the famous, "Don't run with that sucker. You'll fall and poke your eye out." Every child has heard, "If I have to pull over and stop this car, you guys are going to be sorry." And, of course, there's the ultimate threat: "This is my final warning." What do children hear if they ever are so foolish as to challenge the wisdom of their parents? They hear: "Why? Because I said so, that's why."
Of course, common sayings are not a one-way street. If a parent plans a cross-country vacation, before they reach the end of the block, they can count on hearing, "Are we there yet?" Before they venture on any journey, parents ask, "Now, has everyone made use of the washroom?" You and I know, the van's engine won't have had a chance to warm up before one of the children says, "I have to go." If you take the time to poll parents, all of them would agree, they have been bombarded with, "But everybody's doing it." If you believe your five-year-old who says "everybody's doing it," you will soon be convinced that every parent is letting their child stay up till dawn, drink beer with their breakfast cereal, drive the family car, and will be married before they reach the age of seven.
Yes, we parents have all heard such sentences. But the most common expression every parent has heard is the four all-purpose words: "But it's not fair." It's not fair they don't get to stay up like other kids. It's not fair they can't ride their bikes across a six-lane highway. It's not fair they have to study. It's not fair they can't go to an R-rated movie. It's not fair they don't get to wear motorcycle leathers on their first day in third grade. It's not fair they didn't get a driver's license with their birth certificate. It's not fair they have to hold down a job and pick up their room. It's not fair the world doesn't appreciate them for their brilliance and breathtaking beauty. It's not fair.
I wonder how old we have to get before we stop saying, "It's not fair"? The oldest person I ever met was 104. Even at that venerable age, she still used the words, "It's not fair." Maybe the "it's not fair" expression is part of our human condition. Policemen tell me when they stop a speeder, they hear, "It's not fair. Why are you ticketing me? Why don't you go and catch some real crooks?"
Have you been passed over for a promotion at work? Did the job go to someone far less worthy? What did you say? "It's not fair." Have you gone to a high school reunion? Did someone show up looking younger than when they graduated? It's not fair. When your parents made out their will, did they leave the lion's share of the estate to your "good for nothing brother who never held down a job and was a constant source of embarrassment to the entire family?" It's not fair. In the past year, has your television konked out? Has your family vehicle become violently ill? Has your snow blower refused to start any time the weather gets colder than 40 degrees above zero? I don't have to be there to know these things happened the day after the warranty expired. As you chugged four aspirins, what was your shout that rattled windows in the neighboring county? You said, "It's not fair!"
Scripture doesn't say so, but if our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, were anything like us, I imagine as they crept out of the forbidden Garden of Eden, they probably felt that God was overreacting. After all, they had just taken a few bites from the forbidden fruit. Didn't they murmur under their breath, "It's not fair?" As I said, the Bible is silent about what they said, but there are others in Scripture whose opinions are recorded. The Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk, was caught in terrible times. As things were going from bad to worse, he went to the Lord and said, "Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous" (Habakkuk 1:3-4). In short, Habakkuk was saying, "It's not fair."
Listen to just a few verses taken from the Book of Psalms. One says: "My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long? Turn, O LORD, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love" (Psalm 6:3-4). What was he saying? "It's not fair." Here's another: "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?" (Psalm 13:2). It's not fair. Here is one that talks to many of us. "When I stumbled, they gathered in glee; attackers gathered against me when I was unaware. They slandered me without ceasing. Like the ungodly they maliciously mocked; they gnashed their teeth at me. O Lord, how long will You look on?" (Psalm 35:15-17). It's not fair.
And a final passage which sums up our feelings: "How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked?" (Psalm 82:2). In different ways, and with different words, each of these passages is saying, "Life is not fair." Across thousands of years, these passages say our feelings about life's unfairness remains constant.
Honest, honorable farmers, have you ever looked at your hail-devastated fields and wondered why your crops had been destroyed and those of your free-wheeling neighbor were left unscathed? It wasn't fair, was it? Moral teen-agers, how do you feel when you see party invitations and great dates going to people who are ethically challenged? It's not fair. Have you tried to keep fit, watched your diet, your weight, your blood pressure, but now find yourself battling a life-threatening illness, and your sedentary friends have no health problems at all? It's not fair. Are you mourning the death of someone who, by your calendar, has died at the wrong time? It's not fair, is it? All of these things, including many more I don't have time to list, lead most of us to conclude: "Life's not fair."
But, what is the most unfair thing of all? It's unfair that God often gets blamed for life's inequities, imbalances, injustices and inequalities. A number of years ago, San Antonio, Texas, had a 99 degree September day. On that day, a lady locked her 10-month-old niece in a parked car. In helpless hysteria, the mother and aunt ran around the vehicle, while a neighbor tried to unlock the car with a clothes hanger. The infant was turning purple. At that life or death moment a wrecker arrived. Quickly, the driver grabbed a hammer, smashed the car window, and set the little girl free. Was he heralded as a hero? He was not. The rescuer said, "The lady was mad at me because I broke the window."
That's what many people do to God. Rather than thanking Him for the good He does, they criticize Him. We've all heard people critically comment, "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?" They sadly say, "How come God doesn't stop this madness?" Even insurance companies, surveying the aftermath of a weather-related tragedy, will declare, "This was an act of God."
It's not fair to blame God for the things wrong in our world. He's not responsible. When God finished His week's worth of creation, He surveyed everything His mind had manufactured and His hands had made. Content, He decreed it was all "very good." If you had been there, you would have noticed fairness as far as the eye could see. Fairness served up for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But then, because our ancestors thought they knew what was better, the bottom fell out. Ever since the moment humanity sinned, Adam and Eve's descendants have been shaking their fist at the heavens, blaming God for the results of their sin, shouting, "It's not fair." The truth is, all the grasping, all the greed, all the lust, ludeness, pain, prejudice, stealing, sin, sadness, sorrow and searching, have come because we, as a race, have separated ourselves from our perfect God. And because God often allows this world to go where our sinfulness takes it, we whine: "It's not fair." But it is. The only Person who can legitimately say "it's not fair" is Jesus Christ, God's Son, our Savior. Jesus can say, "It's not fair." Jesus could say it wasn't fair that babies died in Bethlehem when Herod, the king, tried to snuff out His life. It wasn't fair when the people of Nazareth turned their backs on Him who should have been their favorite Son and Savior. It wasn't fair when Jesus' family dismissed Him as a lunatic. It wasn't fair that He was accused of using Satan's power when He healed the sick. It wasn't fair the people He healed forgot to thank Him. It wasn't fair when the crowds He fed spiritually, and physically, deserted Him. It wasn't fair when His church plotted His assassination. It wasn't fair His government refused Him justice. It wasn't fair when His best friends turned their backs on Him. It wasn't fair when one denied Him and another sold Him for 30 pieces of silver.
Jesus is the One Person who can legitimately say, "Life's not fair." But search Scripture as often and as deeply as you wish, and you will never find a single time where He says, "It's not fair." To the church at Rome, the apostle Paul, under the Spirit's direction wrote, "God demonstrates His own love for us in this, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." God didn't say, "Repent and I'll send My Son." He didn't say, "Show some contrition, and I'll send My Son." He didn't tell us, "Let me see that you will appreciate His sacrifice and I will send My Son." God said none of those things. Instead, our heavenly Father sent Jesus to be despised and denied; disrespected and rejected; harried and hated, to be maligned and murdered. It wasn't fair--it was grace: unmerited, undeserved, unwanted, unappreciated.
Even though it wasn't fair, Jesus never complained. He didn't demand fairness as our sins were laid upon Him in the Garden of Gethsemane. Those sins dropped the omnipotent Son of God face-first into the dirt. Those sins caused Him to sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. But they didn't make Him say, "it's not fair." When Jesus was beaten, He didn't say, "It's not fair." When witnesses lied about Him, He didn't whine, "It's not fair." When they whipped Him, He didn't cry out, "Stop, this isn't fair." There was no demand for fairness when He was crowned with thorns and people spit in His face. Jesus never said it was unfair when people didn't applaud or appreciate Him. When it came time for His greatest sacrifice, Jesus prayed the Father's will should be done. He had not come for fairness, He had come to give His life as a ransom. While we were sinners, Jesus came to die for us.
That's why, I can say, if anyone thinks God is unfair, let them watch as the nails are pounded into the hands and feet of His innocent Son. That day, almost 2,000 years ago, on a skull-shaped hill outside Jerusalem's city walls, God set aside fairness so this sinful world might be rescued. That day the innocent was punished for the guilty. Christ, most unfairly but most graciously and most wonderfully, died for us. It wasn't fair. It was grace. And grace, my fellow co-sinners, can take us a lot farther than fairness.
If your life has been filled with bitterness and loneliness, if you have been dealt one bad hand after another, if each day you wake is darker than the day before, then you need to see your Savior, Jesus. If you have, up until this moment, believed you had no friend or future, if happiness and hope seemed beyond your grasp, then you need to see your Savior, Jesus. If you have begun to think of God as a Divine Being who has a twisted sense of humor, an omnipotent joker whose chief joy has been to make your life miserable, you need to see Jesus, your Savior.
The Savior who lived His entire life oppressed by unrelenting unfairness, with nail-pierced hands is reaching out to you. He who died so you might live desires to lift you up from your doubt and despair, from your depression and discouragement. He wants to set your life on a new path. In this world, that path will lead to a peace that surpasses anything anyone else can give you. In the next world, that path will be an eternity of happiness in heaven.
You may want to know more about how the Lord can change your life. If so, dial our 800 number-1-800-876-9880. Lutheran Hour Ministries, who sponsor this broadcast won't ask you for money. We won't twist your arm. We merely want to share the joy we have found in Jesus. Jesus IS your Savior and Friend. I need to say that again--to those who have forgotten--to those unsure--to those down in the dumps--Jesus is your Savior and Friend. Don't think no one can help. There is One who can do the job. Believe me. That's more than fair. Amen.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for September 29, 2002
ANNOUNCER: Pastor Klaus, a listener asks, "How can I come back to God? Is it possible to go back to God without Jesus?"
ANNOUNCER: That was a very short answer. Could you elaborate?
KLAUS: Yes, Mark. In all the world's religions, Christianity is unique.
ANNOUNCER: How so?
KLAUS: Every religion, every philosophy, other than Christianity, says every person has done things wrong. All of them say if you are going to get back to God, you have to work your way up to Him. If you are honest with yourself, you know you just can't do it. Christianity says the only way to get back to God is for Him to come down to us. That's what Jesus did when He was born in Bethlehem. Jesus, true God and true man, was the only One who could bring us back to God. Christianity is unique. Jesus is unique. He talked about that uniqueness when He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).
ANNOUNCER: But are there any conditions God places on this?
KLAUS: Another good question. That question is really as old as the church. On Pentecost, the birthday of Christianity, people heard the apostles preach their first sermon. Acts 2 says that when the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other disciples, "Brothers, what shall we do?" Peter's answer is just as good today as it was almost 2,000 years ago when it was first given. This is what he said: "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call" (Acts 2:38-39). Repent. That means, by the Spirit's power, you are turned from what you were, what you thought, what you did, to something new, something else, something better, something God-like. That's what happens when you are baptized. You are forgiven and the Holy Spirit adopts you into a new family, God's family. If the listener is asking, "Is there a catch to all this free grace?", my reply would be, "No. Our forgiveness cost Jesus His life. For us it's free."
ANNOUNCER: Is that what God has done with the sins of our listener? Has He also washed them in Jesus' blood?
KLAUS: Remember how we began this conversation, Mark? The listener said, "I've done some things God wouldn't be too happy about." God has, through Jesus, taken every one of those things He wouldn't be too happy about and erased them. Psalm 103:12 says it this way: "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He (God) removed our transgressions from us." Mark, how far is the east from the west?
ANNOUNCER: I don't know.
KLAUS: Nor do I. God has taken away those sins. Our listener is now free from them. Really, truly free. Not free to go back to those same sins. The Holy Spirit will make some ongoing changes along those lines. But our listener is free. Free to live a life of giving thanks to Jesus who has made tomorrow different than today; for all who acknowledge Him as Savior. I wish I could be there to see the listener's face when that truth dawns. That listener will have what the angels talked about on the first Christmas. You remember those words, don't you, Mark?
ANNOUNCER: Indeed, I do. "The angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.'" Could the Good News of God's forgiveness in Jesus get any better than that?
KLAUS: No, Mark. That's as good as it gets.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Klaus. The next Lutheran Hour message is titled, "Leaving the Past Behind."