“He got more ice cream than me. That’s not fair!”
“Why doesn’t she have to mow the grass like I do? That’s not fair!”
“All my friends get to stay out later than me. That’s not fair!”
Life’s not fair. And, as a parent, you won’t be either.
If you have more than one child you’ve already figured out it’s impossible to treat each one equally – a child’s definition of “fair”. But don’t worry about it. Let me show you that God isn’t fair either.
An angel came and opened the prison door and set Peter free. Hooray! What a story. (Acts 12)
Do you remember why Peter was arrested? Herod arrested James and had him killed. This pleased the Jewish leaders so Herod arrested Peter, apparently planning to kill him, too.
An angel comes for Peter but James gets slaughtered. That’s not fair!
How about this story Jesus tells: A man – who represents the Lord – goes on a trip and gives different amounts of money to his servants. One gets 5, one gets 2 and one only gets 1 “talent”. That’s not fair! (Matthew 25)
But each servant was entrusted with different amounts “based upon their abilities.” Your children need to be treated differently based upon their abilities. One size does not fit all.
Fairness treats everyone the same regardless of ability or effort. In a fair world I could play NBA basketball, get paid as much as the most amazing players and score as many points as any superstar. Now that’s fair. It’s just not reality.
The problem is, fairness has no room for grace. Remember the parable Jesus tells about the boss who hires several groups of guys throughout the day. At the end of the day he pays the first group a fair wage for a day’s work. All is fair.
But then, out of kindness, he gives the same amount to all the guys who only worked part of the day. That’s not fair! But some children were able to eat that night because the boss was kind and generous instead of fair. (Matthew 20:1-16)
God’s not fair but He is kind, generous and just.
Those are traits we want to teach our children but we can’t always be fair.
Justice offers grace to the weak. It demands more of those with greater ability, but also rewards those who go above and beyond.
As parents we can’t obsess over trying to be fair. Our children are different and need to be treated as individuals. Obviously I’m not implying we show favoritism but I am saying our job is to help our children learn to deal with injustices – both real and perceived – that they’ll inevitably face.
Let’s teach our kids how to forgive when they’re treated unfairly, how to rejoice when others succeed, how to show compassion toward those who suffer injustice. Let’s teach them to look beyond fairness and let kindness, generosity and mercy rule – even when it’s not fair.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what the LORD requires of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?