7-25-16 - It's Not Fair!

I just spent an afternoon with siblings. They along very well, but even so there was a bit of, “Mom, tell her to give me some!” it’s human nature to want what someone else has. So it is in the story Jesus tells in this week’s Gospel passage – a story that is prompted by a sibling’s complaint.

Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’

This man may well have had a legitimate gripe – some laws of inheritance favor the firstborn, who gets everything. It must have been customary for the heir to share – and this one hadn’t. The man appealed to Jesus to use his moral authority to compel his elder brother to generosity – or at least to some behavior that was “fair.” But fairness is a pretty subjective category, isn’t it? “What’s fair is fair” has no reliable measure – it all depends on where we’re looking.

It’s easy to get worked up about fairness when we feel we’re receiving less. But when we’re the ones who have more, often through no effort or intrinsic worth of our own, but because of where we were born, who we’re related to, the color of our skin, where we could afford to go to school or our family’s wealth, we are often less concerned about what’s fair or not. Similarly, when someone’s taken something from us or cheated us, we want equity, but we are rarely as aware about the ways we may injure others.

The Life of God is not about fairness. It’s about unmerited grace. It’s about abundant love, life, joy, peace – and often wealth as well – not because we deserve it or have earned it, but because we are loved beyond measure, because we are forgiven our debts toward God and invited to live in such a way that we extend the same grace to those whom we feel owe us something. This brother did not necessarily “deserve” a part of the inheritance. He, like us, was being invited to trust that he would have enough, and not to be too picky about where that “enough” comes from.

Is there something gnawing at you, something you feel you’re owed, that’s been withheld? Can you offer that to God, trusting that you will have what you need even if it comes from another source? Can you release the person you feel owes you from obligation, moving into freedom for yourself and that person?

When we really focus on how much God has given us, we begin to be grateful that God isn’t “fair.”

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