Is God Unfair?

“Are we saying, then, that God was unfair? Of course not! For God said to Moses, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it.”
Romans 9:14-16 NLT

There are places in the Bible where God’s fairness has been questioned. Where God is perhaps allowing a wicked person to flourish, while allowing one of His followers to go through a difficult time with disease or poverty. The Psalmist who wrote Psalm 73 had some doubts. We read in Psalm 73:1-3, “Truly God is good to Israel, to those whose hearts are pure. But as for me, I almost lost my footing. My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone. For I envied the proud when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness”. We look around us today and see corruption in sport, commerce, and politics. We are told of eye-watering salary packages paid to company bosses. And we pilgrims, who find that paying our bills and keeping warm and fed in these days of inflation more and more challenging, wonder where the fairness is in it all. Why does God allow such inequity? Or are we blaming Him instead for what is effectively mankind making wrong choices and allowing sin to flourish?

Much has been written about capitalism and communism, and many “ism’s” in between. But we won’t be able to find a truly equitable, perfect, and fair society until Jesus comes again to rule and reign. Isaiah prophesied about the coming Messiah, that, “His government and its peace will never end. He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen” (Isaiah 9:7). God is committed to bringing a fairer world, a promise that He will never break.

In the context of today’s verses from Romans 9, was God being unfair when He chose Jacob rather than Esau? There is of course a bottom line to God’s mercy. He will never reject any repentant sinner, and He will cover them with His grace come what may. But the reality is that God will choose some to undertake special roles within their lifetime, so that He can bring about His purposes. For example, consider the Apostle Paul. God chose Him in a dramatic way with a special revelation of Jesus on the Damascus Road. But God didn’t start there. He had His hand on Paul from the moment he was born, training him well in a Jewish home and with the teaching of the Jewish religion. And after Damascus, Paul started his missionary journeys and even found the time to write the letters we know and love. God also had jobs for the other Apostles, and many people since. Some had much to do. Others have had very little. Moses is another example. He was eighty years old when God chose him to do a specific job (Acts 7:23,30). 

Was God being fair when He chose Paul or Moses for the tasks He had for them? In our man-made world of pseudo-fairness, we would have invited applications from people with appropriate CV’s, giving the job to someone after a process of candidate interviews. God, however, knows straight away who is right for the task He has for them because He can see what is in a person’s heart. It would have been unfair of God if He had chosen Esau rather than Jacob for becoming a founding member of the Israelites nation because his character didn’t fit in with the job spec.

In the context of Romans 9, and our verses today, Paul quoted part of a verse from Exodus 33. It was the occasion when Moses was asking for reassurance from God after the Israelite people’s rebellion and sin. God gave Moses a glimpse of Him as He passed by, and the reassurance He requested was granted. God also told Moses that how He dispensed His mercy and compassion was His affair. From a human perspective we may be tempted sometimes to consider that God in unfair with His dealings with mankind, and many will shake their fist in God’s face in their anger and frustration. But we pilgrims know and love our wonderful Heavenly Father – we know He will always act fairly. We trust Him in all that He does, even when there are grounds for confusion. The Psalmist wrote in Psalm 73:17, “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked”. Here’s the secret for when we might become confused because of what is happening with people around us, both afar and near. In the quietness of our prayer closets, where we are close to God, we find the answers we need. Guaranteed. 

Dear Father. There are many times when we would like You to act in a certain way, but You are sovereign, and see the end from the beginning. So we can trust You to act with fairness and righteousness, regardless of what we see. We praise and thank You today. Amen.

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