David C. Hughes, Writer

“For the LORD your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your JOY will be complete." –Deuteronomy 16:15

Archive for the month “December, 2014”

No Fair! (Part 2 of 2)

When Jesus told His disciples the parable of the workers in the vineyard, He contrasted man’s perception of fairness with God’s reality of grace. After agreeing with the vineyard owner’s offer of a denarius a day for their wages, the laborers hired in the morning set out to work. During the rest of the day the owner continued to hire workers and promised “whatever is right you will receive.”

Finally, at the end of the day the vineyard owner settled up with all the laborers, from those hired at the eleventh hour to the workers hired as the sun came up. Each worker got paid precisely one denarius. Of course, the workers who labored all day grumbled about the vineyard owner’s lack of fairness. “‘But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?” So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen’” (Matthew 20:13-16 NIV®).

Another example of life’s lack of fairness is Job’s story. I love the book of Job, not only because it was the story that opened my eyes to God’s lordship and the insidiousness of my own pride, but because of Job’s unshakable faith in the Almighty’s sovereignty, despite the undeniable unfairness of his situation. Even in the midst of horrendous tangible and physical loss, Job refused to deny God. Instead, he worshipped Him.

 

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

 

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,

    and naked I will depart.

The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;

    may the name of the Lord be praised.”

 

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

—Job 1:20-22 NIV®

 

And as a consequence, Job’s story became a timeless testament to perseverance and extreme faith. “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11 NIV®).

Life’s not fair, but God always is. It’s called grace. And isn’t that the point of Christianity? Isn’t grace the evidence of God’s work in this world and in our lives? Is it fair that Jesus, an innocent man tempted in all ways but without sin, allowed Himself to be arrested, tortured and hung from a cross to die a criminal’s death for the redemption of mankind? Jesus experienced the ultimate in unfairness, yet by His sacrifice He brought about the New Covenant, the permanent covenant. And as a result, we have the opportunity to live under God’s mighty hand of grace.

In this world, bad things will happen to good people and good things will happen to bad people. Is it fair? Nope, not at all. But through God’s grace, all that unfairness will be resolved into something good, something, in fact, spectacular. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV®). Life may not be fair, but in the end, it will be perfect. Just like my bowl of homemade vanilla ice cream topped with a whole biscotti. What do you think about that, Hannah?

 

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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No Fair! (Part 1 of 2)

I beg your pardon,

I never promised you a rose garden.

Along with the sunshine,

There’s gotta be a little rain sometimes.

             —Lynn Anderson, Rose Garden

 

One evening while I cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, Hannah obediently swept the living room floor with the dust broom, pushing around the dog hair and dried mud that had accumulated over the past few days. Sweeping the living room was the last task on her chore board left to be done, and once she finished pushing the detritus into a pile, she’d be free to add 15 more points to the total score she’d accumulated so far that week.

Her sweet little voice, a bit tense, broke the silence of concentration. “It’s not fair, Dad,” she said. “You just work in your office all day, Mom just sits around and drinks coffee and I do all the chores.” If I’d have had milk in my mouth it would have shot out of my nose onto the newly-cleaned counter top.

I’ll show you what’s fair and what’s not, I thought. I’ll load you up with so many chores it’ll be the only thing you do all day! But I refrained from the impulsive spewing and responded to her observation like an adult. “If I didn’t work,” I explained, “we’d be living under a bridge in a cardboard box.” So there. “And besides, Mom doesn’t just sit around and drink coffee all day,” I clarified. “She also drinks wine at night.” Ha! Actually, she works just as hard as I do, maybe even harder, but I guess Hannah doesn’t think teaching homeschool, herding eighteen four-year-olds twice a week, running our business, cooking, and keeping the house in tip-top shape is work. Hence the wine.

At seven, it seems nothing in life is fair to Hannah. One morning, after breakfast, I busted a butter cookie from the Royal Dansk tin and popped it into my mouth.

“No fair!” Hannah yelled. “Dad gets to eat a cookie in the morning.” Nope, no fair.

Shortly after Hannah learned how to feed herself, she also learned how to negotiate the amount of food she had to eat to “earn” dessert. Just as quickly as Hannah figured out how to negotiate, Mary and I figured out how to bribe Hannah into eating more substantial food before allowing her to ingest the traditional after-dinner bowl of pure carbs. Over the past year or so, the post-dinner sparring match has gone something like this:

Hannah: Dad, I’m full. Did I eat enough to get dessert?

Me: Ask Mom.

Hannah: Mom, I’m full. Did I eat enough to get dessert?

Mary (irritated): Well, if you’re full, how do you have any room for dessert?

Hannah (pointing to her plate): I’m full of this food, but I still have room for dessert.

Mary: What do you think, Dad?

Me (to Hannah): Eat five more bites of chicken and half of your rice.

Mary: And all of your broccoli.

Hannah (arranging her rice into two uneven piles on her plate): How about three more bites of chicken and this much rice?

Me: Okay. And all of your broccoli.

Most of the time Hannah will comply with the negotiated caloric intake, earning dessert, which, in most cases, is a bowl of Mary’s heavenly homemade vanilla ice cream, which outdoes Blue Bell hands down. I usually eat two scoops, and I give Hannah one scoop if she’s not topping it with a cookie, or a dollop if she is. Nine times out of ten these are the words emerging from Hannah’s mouth after I set her bowl on the table: “No fair! Why does Dad get two scoops and I only get one?”

My response: “Because I weigh five times as much as you do.”

It’s a fact of life that life’s not fair, and no matter how much Hannah whines and moans about my getting more computer time than she does (because I work) or I get to eat a whole biscotti while she only gets a quarter (because I’m the dad), it ain’t gonna change. The Bible is very clear that God never promised us a rose garden. Life’s not fair. Even Jesus said so.

“‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,”’” he proclaimed during His Sermon on the Mount. “‘But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’” (Matthew 5:43-45 NIV®, emphasis added). “No, it’s not fair,” wrote novelist Chuck Palahniuk. “but what makes earth feel like Hell is our expectation that it should feel like Heaven.” Nope, life’s not fair.

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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