“It’s not fair!” This is one of the most common cries in our house which is populated by 3 boys under the age of 10. They feel it very strongly when someone cheats at a board game, or someone gets one less turn at something, or when someone gets a new toy another one has not received.

And I think most of us are like this. We are made with a strong sense of justice in us. We might learn over time not to shout out when something unfair happens to us, but we feel it.

I have been thinking a lot about fairness or justice as I have been preaching through the book of Deuteronomy at church. Last Sunday we looked at parts of chapters 2 and 3 which spoke of the people of God killing whole cultures, men, women and children. Some who had read ahead contacted me even before the sermon was preached, wondering how this might be fair. We can live with a pagan nation that rejects God being punished for their sin, but this seems extreme! All of them dead? Even the little ‘innocent’ children who just had the misfortune of growing up in the wrong culture? Surely God has overreacted, or made some mistake here. Surely this is not really justice.

But herein lies the exact issue in this passage: what is illustrated for us here is real justice. It is 100% fair. As Romans 6:23 says very clearly, the wages of sin is death. That’s something most Christians will subscribe to, but when you see death meted out for sin, well that is harder to stomach. But later in Deuteronomy 9, and earlier in Gen 15:6, it is clear that what is going on in Deut 2 and 3 is indeed punishment on the Amorites for their sin. God is punishing them using the Israelite army to do it.

What is fair for sinners (which includes everyone, including you and me)? Death. And not just in this life, but eternally. That’s fair.

So the fact that we so often live long lives with blessings in this life is grace. And the fact that those who trust in Jesus and his payment for our sins in our place can be saved eternally is grace. We do not deserve these things in any way; they are a gift.

If we really understand this, it will change everything.

When our lives don’t turn out as we imagined or dreamed, we must not be so quick to call God unfair. When people don’t live to the average life expectancy, or have a lower standard of living than the average, that is not unfair.

We need to pause and realize that all we have – life, enjoyment, family, friends, money, church, salvation – all of this is God’s grace, not what we deserve. Consider that just a little today. If we understand this, surely that should lead us to say thank you to God far more often, and to complain far less. All of us are living lives far better than what we deserve. Lives that are not fair. Lives more full of grace than we often consider them to be.