Justice is a principle on which the government of this country was founded, and on which people have assumed they can base their lives in all aspects of living. Whether in their homes, at work, in government, or with interaction with others, this simple thing called “justice”, seems to be of such paramount importance, yet at the same time, so widely misunderstood.
Used almost synonymously with the word “justice”, is the word “fairness”. What many people do not understand, is that the words have very different meanings, and in fact, often are in conflict with one another. This will be explored in this article.
First, some simple definitions:
Justice, by dictionary definition, can most easily be defined as,
- rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
- the process or result of using laws to fairly judge and punish crimes and criminals
- agreeing with what is thought to be right or acceptable
As you can see, one difference is that justice pertains to a set of rules or laws with preset consequences such as punishments or rewards for people who violate or follow them, and an assumption that this applies to everyone equally. Justice must also have an authority figure or body charged with 1. Writing the law, 2. enforcing the law 3. in a human society, changing the law as circumstances merit. (This is not the case with God’s Law, although man has attempted to justify his efforts to do so for over two thousand years).
Fairness, on the other hand, as we see from the definition, is a perceived view of the way things should be. An example of this would be a five year old who wants to play outside in a lightning storm because he likes to splash in puddles. To him, this is not only good fun, but a fair thing to do. When his mother tells him not to, (for fear of getting hurt or struck by lightning), the justice she imparts as the authority, does not seem fair to the child.
On a larger scale, we can look at things as adults that we deal with such as speed limits. The law has written a speed limit in your neighborhood. You think it is fair, your neighbor thinks it is too slow, but your spouse thinks it is too fast, fearing for the safety of the children. As fairness goes, you are all right, in that fairness is a subjective matter of opinion. However, the authorities who wrote the law stated that the speed shall be 25 miles per hour for everyone, all the time, and the fine for violating that will be the same for everyone. This is justice.
Justice and Fairness in a Christian’s Life
Often as Christians, we want God to always be “fair” to us. Nowhere in the Bible does He promise us that. In fact, the Bible has over 190 mentions of the word “judge” in it, and “judgment” mentioned 294 times.The word “fair” is mentioned only 53 times, and only 3 refer to a type of treatment to people. All others refer to the way things look or sound. Of the three times it refers to fair as a way to treat people, it is referring to the way we, as people, are to treat each other.
If you have ever watched team sports, you will notice that there are key players who get most of the glory and attention. In baseball, it will likely be a star pitcher, or a hitter who can hit powerfully and score runs. In football, it will be a quarterback who masterminds big plays, or a runner who scores a lot of points. However, we often forget about the support offered and needed by the many other teammates whom, without, the game could not be played.
The point is, we don’t see the whole picture when the star is making his big play. This is the way God often works. He has a plan in heaven which includes His entire team; you, me, and people we will never even meet. Somewhere in the process, you will be asked or expected to do something that may seem a bit “unfair”, or have circumstances that are quite harsh, come your way. When they do, never forget to pray for guidance and protection in these times, but remember that God has a perfect plan as well. Your actions, circumstances, trials, and lessons, may be an integral part in an unsaved soul coming to Christ, a wandering brother coming back into the fold, a hungry person being fed, or a life being saved. You may not ever even know it.
If this doesn’t seem very convincing, think about the lessons a small child is taught in his youth. How obvious is it to a toddler to be taught to chew before swallowing? Probably not very. However, by doing so, he doesn’t choke and die. By teaching a five year old not to run out into traffic, a ten year old not to wander off with strangers, a teenager to make proper moral decisions with friends, we raise our children by teaching them things that, at the time, they don’t always see as important, and sometimes not even as “fair”. But, by having rules, we have paved a way to a better and safer life for them. God, being the ultimate parent, has done nothing more. He is holy, perfect, sinless, and has the ultimate plan for all of us. He knows the plan as only the writer of it can, so let us trust His just decisions and not be so caught up when our own sense of fairness collides with God’s justice.
For a better understanding of how we can learn about God’s justice and how it fits into our lives, daily time studying His word is important. Don’t just casually read, but study it. Spend time in prayer and meditation. Let Him speak to you too. Prayer is a communication with God, not a monologue where you do all the talking.
May you be blessed as you grow closer to God in your walk with Him.