Fair?

unfair“Who says life is fair?” That’s a question I heard multiple times growing up; usually preceded by me stomping my foot and whining, “That’s not fair!” I heard it from my mother, my teachers and just about anyone who happened to be in the vicinity when I threw my little fit. I continue to hear it, often whenever someone wants to justify a position that others think isn’t…, well, fair. As a child, I never had an answer to this question.

This morning, I was thinking about “fair trade” coffee and why I buy it. I know it’s more expensive than Maxwell House or Folger’s, but, it just tastes so much better. Of course, when you buy something with the fair trade label, there’s the added benefit of knowing that the person who produced it got a fair price for their work, it didn’t involve child labor, natural resources are protected, yadda, yadda, yadda. But, let’s be honest, nobody’s going to spend extra money for something that tastes worse than a cheaper alternative. Anyway, as I perused the idea of fairness, I realized a good answer to “Who says life is fair?” might be “No one. But, shouldn’t it be?”

Life should be fair because fairness is at the heart of the Gospel. Don’t think so? Let’s look a few definitions and see. Merriam-Webster says that fairness is “marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism.” Dictionary.com says it’s “free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice” and The Free Online Dictionary defines it as “Having or exhibiting a disposition that is free of favoritism or bias; impartial” and “Just to all parties; equitable”. So, what does that have to do with the Gospel?

I’m so glad you asked that. The first public statement Jesus made was about justice, i.e. fairness. Luke tells us he walked into the synagogue in his hometown and said

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
to proclaim release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to liberate the oppressed,
and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”

Then, there’s the Sermon on the Mount, which says a lot about fairness. Later on, not long before he died, Jesus told a crowd

Come, you who will receive good things from my Father. Inherit the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world began. I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me.

It seems pretty obvious to me that Jesus’ Gospel isn’t about what happens after you die, it’s about what happens while you live.  It is relief to those crushed by poverty, oppressed for their differences, suffering from their illnesses and imprisoned by the choices they’ve made. Life should be fair and it is up to us, as followers of Christ, to make it so.