Why this topic?
“Fairness” is not a common topic that is taught over the pulpit, though this concept may seem pretty obvious to many people. Of course, we know Christians ought to be fair, and to treat everyone equally. Even non-believers practice fairness, be it in businesses, sports, schools etc. Yet, we struggle to do that even at home, where every member of the family is supposed to be dear to our hearts: sometimes we still treat them unfairly, whether it be favoring one child over another, or prioritizing friends over our own spouse. So the question is, is it possible to treat each individual fairly, at all times? Or maybe, something’s gotta give?
Firstly, let’s define this word fairness: it means to be impartial, practicing just treatment or behaviour without favoritism and/or discrimination. Some words associated with fairness are candor, equality, balance.
God is fair… right?
Where does fairness/equality come from? We must recognize that our Almighty God, who is the source of all that is good in this world, is definitely and absolutely fair. He exacts punishment and rewards according to the deeds of each individual and nation. Benjamin Kwan, in a recent Thursday bible class, mentioned that God is a just God, in that He chose Israel and gave them laws & commandments, so that they as a holy and consecrated people could know what God wanted of them; He did not choose them, only to leave them to be on their own. God had even sent prophets to other nations to warn them of His displeasure, before He executed forgiveness (e.g. Nineveh) or punishment (e.g. Moab). Our God is an impartial God (Romans 2:11-12), though some may beg to differ. We heard of people, in their despair, crying and accusing God of being unjust and unloving. Atheists and Deists highlight situations in which good people suffer, in order to challenge the notion of God being a fair God… so why should we expect fairness in life?
What the Bible has to say
God is no respecter of persons (Ephesians 6:9), and He does not want us to show unjust favoritism also, as we see in James 2:1-3 – “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool.”
In fact, the writer concludes in verse 9, that having respect to persons is classified as a sin, and makes us a transgressor of the law! If we are unfair in our treatment of various individuals, we are no different from the Pharisees whom Jesus condemned, for they demonstrated exactly what was mentioned above. On the other hand, Jesus was fair to everyone he encountered, be it harlots, publicans, lepers, religious teachers, or Roman centurions. He taught to the mixed crowd the same message as He would to His disciples, and He healed all who came to Him without fail.
Another principle we can apply is that of Matthew 7:12 – “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” This simple rule in the Bible summarizes what fairness looks like: no one wants to hurt, humiliate or despise themselves, so why should we do that to others? We want the best for ourselves, so we should also want the best for others.
Finally, it is our Christian duty to show fairness to everyone, and to treat everyone equally. In the Old Testament, this was already highlighted in Leviticus 19:15, “not respect the person of the poor, nor honour the person of the mighty”. Status, wealth, appearance, race etc. should not be part of our judgement or treatment of others. Peter in two separate occasions displayed prejudice and mistreatment towards others: the first being the conversion of Cornelius’ household, who were the first Gentile Christians, and the second incident being described in Galatians 2, where Peter dissembled himself from the Gentile Christians when the Jews arrived. Peter was aware from his first interaction that God has already broken down the wall of stigma and division when it comes to Christian faith, so when Paul reprimanded Peter about his discriminative behavior in the later scenario, he knew he was in the wrong. There are many other verses and examples that I can bring up in the Bible, but let’s move on to examine some points of application.
How to show fairness in everyday life?
I have 3 suggestions that will help us to ensure that we achieve fairness with everyone.
Keep an open mind – In order to treat others with fairness, we must try to understand the perspective and ideas of others without immediately shutting them down. When we immediately shut someone/something down because we do not agree, we are not giving them a fair chance. It is important to hear everyone's opinions, ideas, and perspectives in a fair manner.
Put yourself in the shoes of others – Once you are able to empathize with others, you will not behave in a way that is selfish or judgmental. These two attributes tend to lead to preconceived bias, resulting in an unwillingness to exhibit fairness to the person. Whereas, being able to identify with, and not be indifferent to others, opens up room for mercy and opportunities. In this way, we will regard everyone in a fair and equitable manner that is Christ-like.
Take turns - If we do not take turns sharing things with others, then not everyone gets an equal chance. Everyone gets an equal chance to do something by taking turns, be it doing the chores at home or just having a conversation. This is especially true when it comes to resolving conflicts, whether it be between spouses or among children, and even at the workplace.
I have always tried to be fair in my dealings with people, and strive to uphold the promises I made to everyone (sometimes to my wife’s despair); but even then, I know my standard still falls short of God’s. By sending his Son to die for the sins of the world, God’s universal and all-encompassing love is for everyone. It is therefore important for us to spread the gospel to anybody and everybody: free thinkers, Muslims, denominations etc. We are also required to live our lives fairly without discrimination just as Jesus did, so that others can see Christ in us. By doing so, I believe this is the fairest way of repaying God our Christian obligation and love.