God is not Fair

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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

A Gift to be Free

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Is singleness a “gift”? Is a lack of desire to party and drink a gift? What about the person who has no desire or need for a drug fix? Would that be a gift? Have you ever personally known someone who was a compulsive liar? They just could not help themselves and were always inventing stories and lies as a habit of life? Would it be a “gift” to not have that burden? The fact is restraint and personal boundaries come easy for some but are much more difficult for others. In the middle of Paul’s practical rules for marriage, relationships, and sex he makes an obvious but seldom realized point about the nature of people. We all have different strengths, weaknesses, and “gifts” from God.

7 I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. 1 Corinthians 7:7 ESV

The “gift” Paul is talking about here is a lack of desire or need for a sexual relationship in his life. Paul wishes right before this statement that all men would remain single to focus on their relationship with Christ alone, but he knows in real world practicality that is not possible. William Barclay in his commentary on Corinthians provides solid evidence that Paul most likely was married at one time. Unknown is what happened to his wife. Did they split up over his conversion to Christianity or maybe an untimely death? Whatever the reason the result is that Paul living the brutal road life of a missionary sets an example and he views as a “gift” to be single and singularly focused on God’s priorities.

For me I wanted to be married and I wanted it at a young age. A partner for life to have my back, someone to be relationally and emotionally invested in, and of course the want of sex made it all the more desirable. Restraint and the mercy of God helped me wait until college was complete but it was not easy. If because of religious reasons I followed a path of singleness it would have ended in failure. My strength and my “gift” at that time was not celibacy. So what is the real application here? What point should one take way?

Freedom. God has given us a freedom to be something other than what the world demands we be. The world would tell us that Paul’s “gift” was a curse. How could he live a life of singleness? Sex after all is the most desirable pleasure one could seek after. There must have been something wrong with Paul or he was lying about his own sex life the world will argue. But what Paul is really talking about is Freedom.

In recent years I have noticed Christians embracing things that were culturally taboo a generation ago. Some Christians proudly show off tattoos, others piercings in odd places and social beer clubs through a church. These Christians champion that Christ has made us free to be and do what we want. Paul on the surface seems to advocate the same but it is really a misunderstanding.

12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12 ESV

I am a Christian now I can live and be anything because the law no longer has power over me. Through Christ I am alive. If I want to drink then I will drink. If I want to watch Game of Thrones then get out of my way. If I want to use profanity at that right moment when it will have the most effect to get my point across then *%$ I will. I have freedom in Christ. Sounds not so wonderful this kind of attitude. But freedom of this kind is practiced in subtle ways throughout the church. The rationalization is that one should relax that legalism is creeping into one’s worldview and that this act, this language, and these images are not hurting anyone.

But this is not the kind of practical freedom that Paul was talking about. Paul’s freedom, his “gift” is the strength and desire to no longer conform to this world. Paul’s freedom was to be removed from the temptation to lust and seek after sexual pleasure. He became transformed through Christ to be a new man.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 ESV

Now Paul’s gift of freedom may or may not apply to the reader. So in all practicality Paul then reinforced the natural plans God had already laid down. God created Men and Women to be supportive loving relationships. Those relationships also allow one to flee sexual immorality by having a spouse to support that ability. Some have one gift others have another.

Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 ESV

I do not need to be what I once was because I have now been given the freedom and the gift to flee and turn away from that life. That gift comes from faith and submission to the love Christ has for me. Freedom is not something to be abused for my own selfish gain as if I were still living as one not transformed. Freedom in Christ is the gift and desire to seek holiness in the presence of God.

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11a ESV