Last week, I addressed the second of the seven reasons Deborah Mitchell cited in her controversial CNN article “Why I Raise My Children Without God.”
Mitchell’s 7 Reasons “Why I Raise My Children Without God” were, as follows….
- God is a bad parent and role model.
- God is not logical.
- God is not fair.
- God does not protect the innocent.
- God is not present.
- God Does Not Teach Children to Be Good
- God Teaches Narcissism
This Week: 3) God is not fair.
If God is fair, then why does he answer the silly prayers of some while allowing other, serious requests, to go unanswered? I have known people who pray that they can find money to buy new furniture. (Answered.) I have known people who pray to God to help them win a soccer match. (Answered.) Why are the prayers of parents with dying children not answered?
If God is fair, then why are some babies born with heart defects, autism, missing limbs or conjoined to another baby? Clearly, all men are not created equally. Why is a good man beaten senseless on the street while an evil man finds great wealth taking advantage of others? This is not fair. A game maker who allows luck to rule mankind’s existence has not created a fair game.
What About This Statement Is Wrong?
Mitchell isn’t really writing anything new when acknowledging that God’s sense of justice doesn’t seem to match up with mankind’s sense of justice. In fact, the Spirit of God fascinatingly even inspires psalmists to record their anger over God’s non-human brand of justice. “For I envied the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.” (Psalm 73:3-4) We hear similar sentiments throughout the Book of Job and from the mouth of prophets like Jeremiah (Jer. 12:1).
There must be a reason for these divinely recorded rants. Apparently God finds some value in allowing his people to read the vents of frustration that came from previous believers. They didn’t like the injustice of a sinful world either.
What Mitchell really fails to recognize in her statement, though, is a truth that even many Christians fail to process as well – that God answers ALL prayers, just not always the way we desire or at the time we desire. Like a parent who doesn’t immediately give their child EVERYTHING they want at the very moment they want it, God loves us more than to merely spoil us.
What if we really got what we wanted all the time? Can you even imagine the monsters we’d be? It’s very interesting to me that a largely secular American entertainment community has even picked up on this. In 2003, Jim Carrey and Morgan Freeman starred in Bruce Almighty, which tells the story of a man who constantly complains that God isn’t doing his job right. The main character, Bruce Nolan, eventually gets the opportunity to “play God” for a week to see the challenges that come with governing sinful humanity. It’s a fairly sacrilegious film, but nonetheless did a superb job of highlighting the challenges and snafus of managing a world full of inherently self-centered, self-destructive creatures. In one scene, Bruce discovers that if, as God, he simply replies “yes” to all prayers, it will destroy civilization.
Similarly, in 1990, Garth Brooks hit #1 on the country billboard charts with a song called, “Unanswered Prayers.” In the lyrics, he writes about a man who went back to a football game at his old high school. There he sees the girl who, back in high school, he believed was the “girl of his dreams.” He recalled how he’d prayed feverishly that God would let the two of them be together forever. But he then realizes how much both he and this woman have changed over the years. And finally he introduces her to his wife, concluding that the woman he was now with was much better for him than the woman whom he previously thought he was supposed to be with. He then humbly expresses gratitude to God for not always giving him everything his heart desired.
To suggest that you know EXACTLY which prayers should be answered, in which ways, at which times, would be to suggest that you yourself know all things. In other words, you have then indirectly called yourself, by definition, “God.” You see the foolish pride in that, right?
The moment you realize that humanity would be a wreck if God gave us everything we want is the very moment you realize that failing to get everything our hearts desire in this world is a temporal and practical necessity.
What About This Statement Is Truth?
God absolutely is NOT fair. We do NOT get what we deserve. And we shouldn’t want it any other way.
The Bible is very clear that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). No one, Christians or otherwise, really dispute that. Sure, some believe they are without sin in the sense that they refuse to acknowledge universal morality and therefore “sin.” But I’ve never met one single person who claimed that they were perfect. In other words, we all know we’re flawed.
Since we’re all in agreement that we’re not perfect, then we’re all in agreement that none of us deserve a perfect life. But that’s exactly what the Bible says God gives those who believe. The very next verse of Romans 3 says that all “are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3:24) Because God is more of a Father than a boss, he doesn’t pay wages, he gives gifts. Salvation is a gift.
The 70 or 80 years which we flawed creatures may or may not get in this flawed world will likely, in fact, be flawed. Why would that surprise us? But an infinite and eternal life is awaiting those who recognize the gift of forgiveness that God has given to us in Jesus.
We do not get what we deserve. We get what Jesus deserved. And he got the hell that we deserved in exchange. (2 Cor. 5:21) Doesn’t sound fair. I know. Salvation for mankind is contingent on God NOT operating according to the “fairness of man.”
Furthermore, Mitchell points out in her argument the occasional pettiness of many Christians’ prayer lives. That’s probably a legitimate criticism. When Jesus taught us to pray, he explained the importance of praying for spiritual things above and beyond physical things (Matt. 6:9-13).
But to get angry at God for the sins of flawed Christians is misguided. Gandhi made the same mistake when he said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.” Everyone would agree that misguided anger is unhealthy. So be angry at some Christians. But it’s illogical to let that jeopardize potential for relationship with God.
How Is the Gospel of Jesus More Beautiful Than This Belief?
It’s the most beautiful thing someone can experience. And it’s sadly foreign to this planet.
Think for a moment about why you love the things you love. Generally speaking, we love the things (or people) who “do something” for us. I love pizza because it tastes good. I love basketball because I find it to be exciting and it helps me stay in shape. I love my wife and my family and my friends because they’re great to me. Even God himself. I love him because he first loved me and did amazing things for me (1 John 4:19). This is what we might call “objective love.” It’s loving something based on the value of the object to us.
That is NOT how God loves us. When Jesus gazed down from the cross that was sucking the life out of him, upon the people who put him there, he loved them. He didn’t love because they were so incredibly lovable. But he still loved them simply because his heart is intrinsically filled with love. This is what we might call “subjective love.” It’s loving something based on the goodness of the subject doing the loving.
In her article, Mitchell repeatedly cited the sadness of parents whose children are either born with defects or die prematurely. God doesn’t like defects, disease, or death either. In fact, the Bible makes the bold claim that God actually loves your sick and dying child even more than you do, which is why he gave his own life to give your child eternal life and a resurrected body that will never face pain or deformity or disease.
God is not fair to us. He’s gracious to us.
Three Summary Points to Consider:
1) What would the world look like if God gave everyone everything they asked for in prayer? And wouldn’t suggesting that you know what prayers God should and shouldn’t answer be an insinuation that you yourself had God-like knowledge?
2) The Bible claims that God is just, but not “fair.” Every crime is accounted for, but God gets out his own wallet to pay for the damages. Does such generosity strike you as fair, less than fair, or more than fair?
3) How much of challenging God’s “fairness” is actually our struggle to understand God’s grace, an entity that is so foreign to this world it almost seems too good to be true?