Is God Unfair?

Is God sometimes unfair? I can think of three basic circumstances where this question is asked in the Bible. (Let me know if I am missing some major category).

The first basic circumstance concerns the issue of suffering painfully bad health. The book of Job is built around on this topic. Consider, for example, what Job says to God in Job 10:3 and 7.

Does it seem good to you to oppress,

To despise the work of your hands, …

Although you know that I am not guilty…?

The second basic circumstance (which occurs quite a few times) concerns the triumph of the wicked over the righteous. A good example is found in Hab. 1:13

Why do you look idly at traitors

And remain silent when the wicked swallows up

The man more righteous than he?

The third basic circumstance concerns the question of God’s sovereign choice in election. Consider what Paul says in Rom. 9:18-19

So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault, for who can resist his will?”

It is my experience that these are the three common visceral and palpable objections that people have against the love of God. Why does he allow me (or a loved one) to suffer, why does he allow terrible injustices to occur, or why does he harden some people against salvation? Perhaps these thoughts of God’s unfairness can be summarized into one overarching question. Why should I trust God when on the really serious stuff it looks like he does not know how or care to govern his creation in fairness?

Now, there are different answers given, especially in the texts cited, but I want to focus here on the answer given to Job. After 90% of the book of Job memorializes the back and forth on the question of the wisdom and fairness of God’s governance, God himself finally speaks. He does not tell Job why things are, but starting in chapter 38 he directs Job to examine nature to start to appreciate his incredible wisdom in governing the world. I wonder if we couldn’t all be significantly helped by taking this admonition to heart and doing some of this ourselves. All that God has ordained is done in wisdom. Much can only be understood by faith. But, we can see a fraction of his wisdom and glory in nature, and from this, we can make the appropriate inferences to the other issues.

I close with a photo from a book I’ve been rereading while holed up in social isolation. It is a photo of meshed microscopic gears of a planthopper (insect). For a planthopper to jump so powerfully, all its legs must act in unison. How is this done? It turns out there is a system of gears that synchronize all the legs to push at once. (Blind watchmaker, indeed!?!) How many and marvelous are all his works!

Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.   Psalm 111:2

—Elder Jim Blake


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