Tonight we talk about what’s fair.
I have a commitment with myself and you that I will try to limit the number of “raising kids” stories I use in these talks. But there is no better way to illustrate today’s topic than a lesson from the lab of early childhood psychology that is my family.
When raising small children, you have to develop a theology of fairness. One of the earliest philosophical arguments we develop is “no fair.”
In the beginning, you try to be fair. Make sure everyone gets the same amount. Make sure everyone gets to come along on every outing. Make sure everyone feels they are being treated equitably. The argument works on you.
Pretty soon you realize that you have a different definition of “fair” than these people.
“It’s time to go to bed.” “No fair!”
She has a stuffed monkey but I don’t.”
A lot of the complaints are directed at me – “You get more bacon than me? No fair!”
No fair – she got the pink cup.” (show the cups). Thank you, Ikea, for making these plastic cups in multiple colors instead of just one.
This is a scenario where it will not be possible to be fair all the time.
It’s a no win situation – the Kobyashi Maru of breakfast time.
Confession time: I do not always treat my children fairly – especially by their definition.
Sometimes I spend a little more time with one of them.
I play tickle-monster with the younger ones. I don’t play tickle-monster with the older ones because the tickle monster ends up getting hurt.
I have brought back gifts from a business trip of differing monetary values.
They are DIFFERENT. They get treated differently
Our parenting style rows out of our personality. So that sometimes involves sarcasm and friendly mocking.
“Why did my sister get to play iPad and I only got to play Leapster?” “Because we love her more than you.”
“Hey…she got the pink cup.” “Awww…that’s so unfair. Let’s cry about it. Nobody likes me, everybody hates me…”
“You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.
An immature definition of “fair”:
FAIR = THE SAME
We are not the same. We have different abilities. We have varying gifts. I’m no Russell Wilson. Neither are you. But I bet he can’t make apps. So there!
The question we have to ask is “What does God expect of me?”
God is just. But not fair, as we count fairness.
Jesus told many parables that tell us how things are judged and evaluated in his new kingdom. This is one of them.
14 “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15 To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17 So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18 But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
“Each according to his ability.”
Bag of gold = talent – a talent was worth about 20 years of a day laborer’s wage.
At first glance, burying it sounds like a good plan.
There is an unspoken implication that “one bag of gold McGee” had to be picking up on – you don’t have the juice to handle more than this. These other guys can take on a lot more.
It’s not even. It’s not equal. It’s not fair.
Think of the arguments we make about money and position and power. If I had been born to wealth, I could certainly make something of my life. If I had been given the right education, I’d be doing better. If I had the opportunities other people have had, I would be able to give more.
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’
21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22 “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’
23 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24 “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26 “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27 Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
Is this harsh? Is it fair? Is it unfair? What about this:
28 “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29 For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Jesus lays it out: “When I return to settle all scores, I will hold you accountable for what you have been given.”
Not what anyone else has. Not what you are lacking. But what you have been given.
It may not seem fair, but it is just.
And just in case you think this is an isolated story…
47 “The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. 48 But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him,“Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them… 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Which of the three servants do you most identify with – the one with 10, 5, or 1.
What types of things could be counted as our “bag of gold?”
Have you ever know anyone who wasted their opportunities? Anyone who succeeded despite serious disadvantages? What makes the difference between the two?
One more thing
It’s not about fairness. It’s about faithfulness. The question is not what you have, what situation are you in. The question is “what are you going to do about it?”
If today is the day accounts are settled, what account would you give?