An objection I hear from time to time is that God is not fair or he is unjust. A great of example of this objection is when Abraham lies to the Egyptian Pharaoh. Because of the lie Pharaoh takes Sarah, Abraham’s wife and future mother of the nation of Israel, as his wife because Abraham told the Egyptians that Sarah is his sister. Because Abraham lies to the Egyptians God punishes the Egyptians with a plague. Here is the relevant passage that shows God’s supposed unfairness…
11 When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sarai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful in appearance, 12 and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me, but they will let you live. 13 Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared for your sake.” 14 When Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. 15 And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. 16 And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels. 17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had. Genesis 12:17-20 ESV
God justice is bigger than the lie of Abraham. Is Pharaoh innocently and righteously living before God? Absolutely not. Why did Abraham fear Pharaoh and decide to lie? Because Pharaoh is a treacherous man who may not be above killing another man to take that man’s wife. God is never unjust or unfair. Pharaoh is just as accountable to God as Abraham. Here a few examples of this higher idea from Jesus in the New Testament.
8 And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ 9 And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. 10 Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. 11 And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, 12 saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ 13 But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Matthew 20:8-14 ESV
The parable Jesus is telling is of workers who agreed to a wage and then were hurt when other who worked less received the exact same wage. It their mind it was an unfair distribution. Jesus responds that it is his right as the owner (God and Creator) to pay each as he sees fit. In addition, these workers agreed to work for that wage because it was a good wage. When we are comparing our lives with the lives of others discontent and “fairness” questions arise but that discontent is unjustified because God is always just. Here is another example of Jesus dealing with this “fairness”.
20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” John 21:20-22 ESV
Peter asks Jesus what the fate of John would be. Peter wants to compare his own life to the other Disciple that is closest to Jesus. Refusing to answer the question Jesus insinuates “what does it matter to you?” or “Would you call my answer unfair and would it rob your joy?”. Jesus looks to Peter in the same way he looks to all of us and tells Peter “You follow me!” Stop using fairness and justice as an excuse to stay unengaged with God. Christ sees the full picture and he knows the father’s plans for each and every person. Truth be told if God was fair to each and every person all of us would be dead and punished in Hell for all eternity. Paul states it perfectly when he speaks about the wages of our sin leading to death. But God’s unfair gift is eternal life through Christ.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 ESV