There’s a Proverb for That: That’s Not Fair!
Just saying “life isn’t fair” doesn’t seem to ease our discouragement when we feel we’ve been treated unfairly. Perhaps the Proverbs can do better.
The wisdom in the Proverbs focuses on behaviors and attitudes that have a huge impact on our lives now and in the future. Fairness, and the lack thereof, is a big aspect of human life, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s a proverb for that.
What is fair?
What is fair? It’s a question that is still debated from the highest levels of government to the most selfish toddlers. What is fair and for whom can be difficult to judge. Great thinkers, lawmakers and ordinary people all have their own ideas of fairness, but unfortunately, thoughts on fairness often conflict and usually focus on what is fair for “me” and not for “us.”
Christians can have a different perspective on fairness because they understand that this world is under Satan’s influence—and he is not fair (John 8:44). This makes true equity and justice elusive now. But Christians should strive to be fair and just when dealing with others.
So what is fair? You guessed it, there’s a proverb for that.
Proverbs and implications
1. Proverbs 16:8: “Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice.”
Money is a good place to start the conversation about fairness. It is not unusual to see those with the most to gain from a financial situation assuring all involved that things are aboveboard, fair and just. However, too often bribes and backroom deals pervert justice (Proverbs 17:23). The book of Proverbs advises us to have honest weights—in other words, to be totally honest in all our dealings (Proverbs 16:11 and 20:23). Taking advantage of others for profit is an abomination to God.
Implications: Just because something is normal and accepted does not make it fair, just or righteous. Normal business practices don’t justify bribes, price gouging, deception, false advertising and other unrighteous activities. These things don’t exactly say “I’m a Christian” to other people.
2. Proverbs 28:5: “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand all.”
Give the responsibility of determining what is fair and just back to God, starting with our own lives.The reason fairness and justice are perverted in our world is simple: Because we ignore God’s laws (Proverbs 31:5). Until people stop ignoring God’s spiritual laws, the problem will continue, no matter how many times man tries to bring fairness himself.
Implications: Christians must go back to the Bible and learn what it teaches about fairness and justice, instead of ignoring it or listening to what others tell us it teaches. Let’s give the responsibility of determining what is fair and just back to God, starting with our own lives.
3. Proverbs 21:7: “The violence of the wicked will destroy them, because they refuse to do justice.”
Justice can’t be discarded and ignored forever; there are consequences. It is a joy for the just to do justice, partly because the opposite leads to destruction (Proverbs 21:15). The Madoffs can’t ruin people’s lives forever. The Stalins and Maos can’t starve millions forever.
Implications: In the words of the late singer Johnny Cash, “You can run on for a long time … [but] sooner or later God’ll cut you down.” The God of justice will not let injustice and unfairness stand forever, and where will we be when the check is due? What side of fairness and justice will we be on when Christ returns to separate the just and fair from the unjust and unfair?
These are good questions to ask ourselves in our professional duties, home lives and basically any of our interactions with other people facing questions about what is fair and just.
Plenty more where those came from
So what is fair? These verses have only scratched the surface of the information found in the entire book of Proverbs—and the entire Bible. The theme might be summarized as this: If our ideas of justice and fairness come from our opinions rather than our God, everything from our financial ethics to sibling relationships will be headed for destruction. When the whole world seems unfair and injustice seems to lurk everywhere, remember there’s a proverb for that.
For more insight about fairness, read “If Life Is a Game, Is It Fair?”