Life isn’t Fair


Jesus tells one of his parables that has been a source of confusion and frustration for the modern church.  The story went something like this.  A farmer needed to hire some help to pick his field of strawberries.  He hired ten young men, and promised to pay them $100 to pick strawberries through the day.  The men were happy with that.  At noon, the farmer saw he needed some more workers, so he hired five more.  The weather was turning threatening for the next day, so the farmer hired  more workers at 3 o clock and again at 6.  By the time it was dark, the fields had been picked and the farmer was happy.  The workers lined up for their pay, and each received a check for $100.

Whoa!  Once those who had sweated through the 12 hour day found out that the latecomers received the same pay, they felt they were cheated. The $100 that seemed good enough at the beginning of the day turned out to be not enough.    “That’s not fair!”  A common lament!  Life does not treat us fairly.  We don’t receive what we deserve.  Others get all the breaks.

Where do we get the idea that our life together on earth should be fair? I look at the variety of situations and circumstances into which a child is born, and do not see fairness.  I consider the losses so many people experience throughout their lives, and do not believe they are fairly distributed among us.  We hear of the huge disparity in our nation and our world between a few who have and the many who have not.  That is not fair.  Illness and tragedy do not come because we deserve suffering.  Nor do the benefits of good health or a happy life come because we deserve good health and happiness.

For us as disciples of Jesus, there is a need to take seriously that life is not fair.  We cannot blame the poor for not being responsible.  We cannot take offense that those who are struggling to have a decent life are taking advantage of tax payer money. I wonder why that would bother us more than all the efforts we make to have the tax payer money work for us.  As I often say, we are all on welfare.

Because life is not fair, we need a generous God who often provides us more than we deserve.  Don’t you think the parable points in that direction?  To a gracious God who enables us to cope with what can be unfair? And beyond that, to forgive what is unfair?  As servants of Christ, we move beyond complaining to forgiving what is a reality in life.

We welcome God who surprises us with gifts that we consider more than we deserve.  We worship the God who does not seem to be motivated so much by fairness as by love and grace, paying more attention to the least and the little ones.

I think of this parable as a story to consider in this season of stewardship when we are reminded we are “blessed to be a blessing.”  That some of us have “more” is to have us consider how unfair that can be and what we are able to do to make up the difference.   As I write, the flooding in Louisiana is creating thousands of victims and untold suffering.  That is not fair!   But from the safety and security of our homes, we have been blessed to give what we can to help.



Bob McQuilkin