If there is one thing that my kids say over and over it is "No fair!" Or, the slightly longer version, "That's not fair, why does she get to . . . ." They constantly compare what is going on in their life with what they see in the lives of others. Our usual response, when not completely annoyed, is to try to draw them back into their lives. Something along the lines of "Well, maybe their Mom and Dad think it is ok to let their kids (climb on the statues here in the Sculpture Garden) (run around the restaurant like crazy children) (throw things at the animals in the zoo) (you get the idea . . .), but we don't." Of course, sometimes we go with the shorter version, too - "Because I said no!"
I guess, though, it is kind of misleading to suggest that only the kids do it. Sometimes I do it, too. Often, though, when I think like that, it is more value laden. "It's just not fair that that person gets recognition when they didn't really do very much." "It's not fair that they treat people so poorly and still get treated so well." "It's not fair that they do not have to work as many hours and they still make that much money." Whatever it is. Sometimes I just don't think that people get what they deserve. And, of course, implicit in that is the idea that I am getting something less than I deserve.
Recently, I have been reading the book of Job. Most people are familiar with the general facts. I apologize in advance for this very simplistic overview, I recognize that this summary does not really do justice to the Book. Job has been incredibly good - he is described as "blameless and upright." Job 1:1 (NIV) He leads a good life and gives praise to God. Satan gets into a discussion with God and basically says something along the lines of - of course Job loves you, look at everything you have done for him. If you take everything away, he will curse you. God allows Satan to take away everything Job has, and inflict him with illness, but not kill him. During the period that Job has nothing and has gone off by himself, he is visited by friends who essentially tell him multiple versions of "you must have done something wrong." Job argues with them and cries out about his unfair treatment. Ultimately, God himself comes and rebukes them all. Job does not curse God to His face as Satan had predicted, instead he essentially apologizes for questioning and repents. God makes him "prosperous again" and gives him "twice as much as he had before." Job 42:10 (NIV)
What caught my attention related to the topic of this post, though, is not the general theme of the Book of Job. Rather, I have read and re-read one of the things said to Job by Elihu. Elihu is not one of Job's three friends, but someone that had been listening to them speak with him. The Bible tells us that he is younger than the three friends and, it seems out of respect, he waits for them to stop talking before he virtually explodes with anger and launches into a long speech. His role, the themes of his speech and how he fits into the entire Book can be much discussed and debated. But, I am grabbing on to two verses. Elihu says:
"God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress. He is setting your table with the best food. But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged. Don't worry, judgment and justice will be upheld."
Job 36:16-17 (NLT)
Go ahead and read it again - more slowly than the first time. Tell me that you didn't say to yourself - "wow, that is me." The only way to make this more directly apply to me is to insert Tony where it says Job. I am certainly guilty of looking past what God is doing for me and how He is caring for me and focusing on whether I think other people are getting away with something. WHO CARES?!? I know that "judgment and justice will be upheld." I also know that I don't have perfect knowledge of the situations. Still, though, as I admitted above, I find myself thinking those kind of thoughts.
I've been using this passage to try to change my outlook. To try to look at the food that God is putting before me and the places that He is leading me. I can't honestly say that I have been 100% successful, but I think it has been a good exercise. I encourage you to give it a try. Stop being obsessed with how others will be treated. Stop comparing and making a judgment that what you are getting is not fair.